All posts by Dentbros

Labrador: Interview with an owner

Labrador – the perfect dog for beginners?

From an unusual breed, the Spanish Water Dog, to the most popular of all!  The Kennel Club describes the breed as follows: the Labrador is the most popular of all pedigree breeds and his popularity comes from his versatility as family companion, service dog, guide dog as well as a working gundog.

LabradorThe Labrador (Lab) comes in three main types – golden, black and chocolate, although there is now an increase in the ‘fox red’ Labrador.  In fact they are classified as being one of six breeds of Retriever, which also includes:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Curly Coated Retriever
  • Flat coated Retriever
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

These breeds have similar characteristics and make fantastic family pets, although Golder Retrievers and Labradors are the two breeds that have been extremely popular for centuries.

LabradorLabrador characteristics

Mel tells us that Labradors are great companions.  They love to snuggle on the sofa and want to be where you are. They love to be physically active, but also can sleep for hours at your feet.  She says:

“My Labradors love to swim, in rivers, in streams, in the sea, and they are very strong swimmers. They are enthusiastic about everything. They are medium to large sized, well muscled and very strong.”

Mel says that she chose her first dog, Bryn (aged 8) as she knew the breeder and her bitch had a wonderful temperament.  Flint is a rescue dog that she had from 10 months old (now aged 2) as a companion dog to train up to take over from Bryn when he is ready to retire as a Pets As Therapy dog.   They are both described as ‘working Labs’ rather than being from show lines.

LabradorInterestingly, Mel feels that her two are both more lively than she had expected, having previously owned Golden Retrievers.  She says she found they were much more exuberant and not so laid back as the Goldies.

An active lifestyle is essential

If you want to consider owning a Labrador, you will need a lifestyle that is quite active so it suits your dog.  Mel says she loves to be outdoors gardening or walking.  She also tries to keep her dogs’ minds active by giving them a job to do.

The best home would have access to open spaces for free running, water for swimming nearby and plenty of attention and company from the owners.  Mel says:

“I live in the country so we enjoy long walks and they accompany me wherever I go as much as possible. We enjoy going on holiday together to the seaside and they have accompanied me to several restaurants. Mine travel well.”

They are great companions for children, but need introducing responsibly, due to their exuberance, although Mel says she has found them to be very gentle around children. They need training and stimulation to get the best out of them.  Definitely not the dog for a flat!

Jobs to do

Bryn is a Pets as Therapy dog and goes into a local primary school to listen to the children read.  He was also in a Flyball team competing in Open competitions winning many rosettes.  Flint is currently taking part in the KC Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme. Both Mel’s dogs are Pet Blood Bank donors.

“I walk my dogs daily for an hours free off lead run over the fields and a half hour walk/training on lead later in the day. They receive an hours formal training weekly.”

LabradorHair, hair, everywhere!

One of the downsides of Labradors is that, even though they are not a long haired breed, they shed hair constantly – lots of it! That is why we have had the introduction of crossbreeds, to try and reduce this issue.  Labradors have been crossed with Poodles to create the Labradoodle.

As they are a strong dog, obedience training is very important. They require some stimulation to prevent them becoming bored, which may cause them to be destructive. They need company as they are very social dogs and don’t like to be left for too long on their own, but they can be left for several hours occasionally without any problem.

Health issues

The main issue for a Labrador is hips. Please ensure you check the breeder has had the dog and bitch hip and eye scored before you purchase.  Mel says the scores from Bryn were very good but with the rescue dog she had no information.  This means there may be a risk of hip dysplasia in future, which is painful and life limiting.  The only problem Mel has encountered has been with them catching or ripping their dew claws due to them being so active. Labradors are also prone to fatty lumps.

Final adviceLabrador

“My advice would be if you put in the work it will be worth it and you will have a wonderful faithful companion. Buying a puppy is just the start of the journey.

“What I love about their characters is that they are still puppies at heart and are full of joy at life.  They are very loving and affectionate and want to please.  They are such faithful pals to me and each other.  I can’t imagine being without them.”

Thank you so much Mel, for your lovely information about this No 1 breed!

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Fundraising Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £8 +£1.40 p&p and all profit goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one? BUY NOW!


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Grooming your dog: Tops tips for a beautiful dog

Grooming: how do you keep your dog in tip top condition?

Following on from my post about the Spanish Water Dog I thought I would re-visit the issue of grooming for a dog.  Ask yourself: how lazy am I?  Then ask yourself: how rich am I?  I think these are the two key questions when considering what dog will suit you.  This is particularly important when thinking about the care your dog will need relating to its grooming requirements.grooming

Long or short coat?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that dogs with short coats require less care than dogs with long coats.  Common sense tells us that a Labrador will not need as much grooming as a Border Collie, for example.  Or will it?  Labradors have what is know as a ‘shedding coat’ which comes out all the time, scattering fine, short hairs throughout the house, sticking to every surface and getting into food.

As a result, short-haired dogs still need grooming.  Regular brushing will stop the hair being scattered everywhere.  You will also find that short-haired dogs tend to smell more, because dirt becomes trapped in the hair, prompting the need for more regular baths.  Dogs like the Spanish Water Dog, Spaniels and Labradors also love the water, so will find puddles and ponds to jump into at every available opportunity.

Moulting coats

Border Collies have a ‘moulting coat’, which comes out in armfuls once or twice a year.  Over a three week period, you will have ‘tumbleweeds’ around the house and may have to vacuum behind the sofas.  After that, not much hair comes out.  If you brush during those three weeks you can definitely reduce the impact, although you will be astonished with just how much hair comes from one dog!

Other care required for a Border Collie, (as with most dogs) will include:

  • Nail trimming – their nails must be clipped or trimmed
  • cutting out tats – sometimes Border Collies get hair clumped into tats, which have to be cut out. This is partly because they don’t need brushing on a daily basis.  Their hair is silky and usually sorts itself out, but sometimes the fine hair on the belly and round the back legs needs tidying up.


Hypoallergenic or ‘non-moulting’ coat

This sounds ideal doesn’t it?  A soft, cuddly coat, that doesn’t shed or moult – perfect! Or is it?  Well, in my view, there are a number of issues with this type of coat:

  • it will still come out, just not as much as with shedding or moulting breeds
  • you aren’t guaranteed this type of coat if you have a crossbreed, or so-called designer dog – it will depend on how the mix of breeds comes out in your individual dog
  • dogs with these coats need regular care.  As with collies, their hair will form tats and because it is curly, this is going to happen all over their bodies, on a regular basis.  They will therefore need daily brushing, and/or frequent trips to the grooming parlour.


NB: Dogs do like to be muddy!  You won’t keep them clean and that’s as it should be.  They need to be outside, running around, smelling smells and exploring.  If you try and cover up their ‘dog smell’ with your silly perfumes and shampoos, they will just go and roll in some more mud.

Using a Grooming Service

I picked up a leaflet for one of these services recently, having never really looked into it before.  Wow, these things cost A LOT of money!  For example:

  • Pug:  Bath, brush and blow dry every 4-6 weeks and Express groom every 6-8 weeks.  Total annual cost: £528
  • Cockapoo:  Bath, brush and blow dry every 4-6 weeks and Full groom every 6-8 weeks.  Total annual cost: £594
  • Newfoundland: Full groom every 6-8 weeks, including de-shedding or hand stripping as required.  Total annual cost: £816

By way of contrast: 

Border Collie:  Stand in a bucket when muddy, clip nails if not worn out by running around, cut out some tats, brush when moulting.  Total annual cost £0.  Lol.

Grooming tools

Of course there are many grooming tools to choose from to enable you to do the expensive stuff yourself.   This deshedding tool looks great and it comes in different colours!

There are also nail clippers to keep their toes trim.  People worry about doing their dog’s nails because if you catch the quick, they bleed profusely.  But the dogs aren’t especially bothered if this happens, and it’s much better to risk that than to have nails that are far too long, as this can be crippling for your dog.


Just a minor point here about microchipping, as the ‘grooming service’ I looked at offers to do this.  From 6th April 2016, all dogs are required by law to be microchipped.  As a breeder, I know that I am legally required to have my puppies microchipped by the time they are 8 weeks old.  I get this done by the vet.  I have to register the pups in my name and then the new owners have to transfer ownership to them.

So, if you are getting a puppy, check before you get it that it has been chipped?  You should therefore be able to trace its ownership back to the breeder.  If you are getting a rescue dog, it should now be chipped before you get it and that chip should be registered to the previous owner.  If not, why not?  There’s not much point having a legal requirement to microchip dogs if this doesn’t allow us to trace ownership of them.

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £8 +£1.40 p&p and all profit goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?


Fundraising: CALENDAR 2019 – BUY NOW!

Fundraising for Canine Concern – Calendar 2019

For the last few years I have been producing a calendar for friends and family.  This year I have decided to go all out and try a bit of fundraising while I’m at it.  I have decided to do this as a fundraising exercise for a charity very close to my heart: Canine Concern.

I am therefore offering these calendars for sale for £8+£1.40p&p.  For each calendar sold, ALL PROFITS will be donated to Canine Concern.  I hope you agree that this is a worthwhile cause.  fundraising


Supporting dogs in schools

I am very proud of the fact that three of the dogs I have bred have now joined this charity and are working in schools.  It is my hope that others may be inspired to join the work done, which makes such a difference to a huge number of children and adults.

2019 Calendar

Last year, I made a calendar using my own photographs for the first time.  Obviously I am not a professional photographer, but thanks to some lessons from Kate and a decent camera, I have been pleased with the results.  The first couple of years I made calendars using photos taken by two amazing dog photographers – Kate Everall Photography and Bridget Davey Photography.  These two are highly skilled at their job and if you want gorgeous photos of your dogs, look no further. Kate  also takes fabulous photos of people, including newborn babies, children and families with their dogs – I highly recommend her.

The advantage of using my own photos, vs ones taken by the professionals, is that I am able to take pictures throughout the year.  My goals with my pictures for next year’s calendar have been as follows:

  • seasonal pictures – preferably with flowers (collie flowers – get it?)
  • different dogs – there are 8 different dogs on next year’s calendar
  • different poses – lying down is the easy one, but I have tried to get some variety as well
  • showing off what makes Border Collies SO special.



I am hoping to sell around 70 calendars, so please help? fundraising


Please can you CONTACT ME with details of your order?  As this is only a small, personal fundraising project, I have not been able to set up an official shop (that is not what I’m about), so please bear with me?  I’ve added a contact form for you to fill in if that’s easier?

CALENDARS COST £8+£1.40p&p (UK only). 

Order now – while stocks last!

Thank you for your support xx

Spanish Water Dog: Interview with an owner

Spanish Water Dog – A hypoallergenic delight!

Have you ever seen a Spanish Water Dog?  Well if you have, you probably (rudely) just thought it was a cockerpoo! They are part of the Gundog group of dog breeds, like Spaniels, so do have some similarities with those breeds.  Sarah says:

“We had never heard of this breed until my daughter included it on a presentation of the breeds she thought we could consider, as my husband was very allergic to dogs. As a result we went to visit breeders and spent time with the dogs, both to test my husband’s allergy and to see if this was going to be a breed we could live with.

Spanish Water Dog“Our criteria was for a family pet, an active dog and one that didn’t need a lot of time both in terms of exercising and maintenance. We liked the relatively compact size and the fact they are very intelligent and easily trainable.”

Grooming requirements

The Spanish Water Dog has an unusual coat, which would have kept him warm in Winter and cool in summer when he was herding sheep on the Spanish mountains.  The coat doesn’t moult at all, but needs to be clipped regularly.  Murray also doesn’t need grooming – in fact you are not allowed to brush his fur.  As a result, Sarah says he does need regular bathing, especially if he is swimming often.

The Kennel Club description of the Spanish Water Dog says:

“Although the Spanish Water Dog was primarily a retriever of wildfowl, he has also traditionally been used as a herder of sheep. His thick coat, a feature of the breed, requires clipping once or twice each year.”

A perfect pet

Sarah says that Murray has fitted into the family extremely well.  He is more of a lap dog than they expected, as he is quite small for the breed (like his father).   He has been easy to train and care for.  Sarah feels that he prefers people to other dogs, possibly because he is not often with other dogs.  In my view, some ‘only dogs’ are desperate for the company and interaction of other dogs, to the point of being a real pain about rushing up to other dogs when out.  Full credit to Sarah if Murray is not like that!

Spanish Water DogSarah says,

“I think his sociability, his calmness and his love of people and especially children are his best characteristics. He isn’t a jumpy, lively dog, not even as a puppy, much more calm and gentle. He is a perfect family pet.”

Spanish Water Dogs are intelligent enough to be trained as gundogs or to herd and they are able to learn activities such as agility.  Sarah has taught Murray a string of tricks he loves to do.

Hairy ears

The Spanish Water Dog, as with many other breeds, can be prone to hip issues, so breeding should be managed to minimise this.  The only other health issue they have is that their hair can grow and block their ears.  Sarah says she was encouraged to pull out the hair, but Murray really doesn’t like that and she found that grass seeds find their way into his ears without that hair to provide a barrier.  They have had experience of grass seeds, but of course this is not peculiar to Spanish Water Dogs.

Spanish Water DogWater for the Spanish Water Dog!

The clue is in the name! Sarah takes Murray for two walks a day, one longer walk  for 45-60 minutes and one shorter walk 15-30 mins. In total he has about 60-90 minutes a day. Murray also loves swimming and she says they try to let him have a swim every week, except for in the middle of winter. They don’t have a particular training regime any more, but Sarah says they do give him the opportunity to do his tricks on a regular basis.

Spanish Water DogPerfect for..

Sarah’s Spanish Water Dog loves people and children, so she feels they can live anywhere where they aren’t going to be spending too much time on their own and has people to love and fuss him.  Murray is very fussy and loves nothing more than a cuddle, which not every dog does like.

Thanks Sarah, for introducing us to this unusual, but delightful breed.

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Fundraising Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £8 +£1.40 p&p and all profit goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one? BUY NOW!


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

Fireworks and Dogs – how can we help our dogs?

Fireworks: What can I do to help my dog cope?

If you have ever had a dog who is terrified of loud bangs or fireworks, you will know how agonising it can be.   Symptoms include:

  • panting, drooling and whining
  • restlessness and fidgeting
  • anxiety and aggression
  • hiding or scrabbling at furniture.

I remember on the eve of the new Millennium, Buzz was left at home while we went to a neighbour’s to celebrate.  We came home to find he had destroyed a door, trying to escape.  Poor boy!

fireworksIt’s really hard to know what to do.  We want to reassure them, but they don’t really want to hear it.

Ignore it and it will go away

When I first went to training classes with Sunny, I remember being told very clearly “Don’t make a fuss if something scares your dog.  If you cuddle them and fuss them, you are drawing attention to their fear and ‘rewarding them’ for wanting your attention.  Just ignore them and they will realise there is nothing to be afraid of.”

I do understand where this advice is coming from.  If you are anxious about your dog being anxious, they will become more anxious, because they are feeding off your anxiety!  I see this most often when we are out walking and we walk past someone whose dog is ‘nervous of other dogs’.  They have the dog on the lead and are gripping hold of it.  Or they might even be clutching the dog to them – I’ll protect you!  Even if they are just holding the lead though, the owner’s anxiety is being transmitted down that lead to the dog.

It’s a vicious circle; the dog is afraid so you become afraid, so the dog thinks “there must be something to be afraid of” so becomes afraid.  This ‘transmission of emotion’ also happens with horses, as anyone who has been nervous about riding a horse will tell you!  Another example is when you are faced with a dog you don’t know and aren’t sure about – you know that they can ‘smell your fear’.  In fact it is true; dogs (and horses) can smell fear and will react accordingly.

Fireworks – training or ignoring?

Getting back to the fireworks then, how should we tackle it?  If we completely ignore it, we are not helping the dog to cope with it, we are just being mean!  What we need then, is a strategy to positively develop coping behaviour for the dog. There are a number of ways we can tackle this:

  • Provide alternative noise to counteract the bangs, such as a loud radio playing
  • Use a Desensitisation CD for dogs
  • Provide a safe place for the dog to go into, such as a dark corner with a comfy bed or blanket
  • Shut curtains and move the dog away from the bangs if possible
  • Put the dog into a Thundershirt
  • Give the dog medication, obtained from your vet, or buy some calming tablets

The Training Solution

Distraction is a crucial factor in persuading your dog that there is nothing to worry about.  It’s not about ignoring them when they are afraid, as about ignoring their fear – making light of it.  If you can clearly project to them that you are perfectly fine with whatever is going on, in fact you think it’s time to have a game, then the dog may be able to move past it with you.  You need to be convincing!  But if you can get their attention on you and persuade them to play fetch, or do tricks, or even just a bit of rough and tumble, then they are less likely to be thinking about ‘that scary thing’.  So go on, play with your dog?

This works if you are out and another dog goes past.  Thinking to yourself “that’s not an interesting dog, playing with you is much more fun” will help to encourage your dog to ignore other dogs.  They won’t feel the need to protect you.  This also works for bangs and loud noises.

This is all a bit boring

Not just fireworks

It is useful to enable your dog to cope with loud bangs, not just for when the fireworks are around, but for all sorts of other things.  Thunderstorms are an obvious one, but also bird scarers, gunshots, hot air balloons, cars backfiring, starter pistols etc.  In fact if you want your dog to become a Pets As Therapy volunteer, they will need to cope with someone dropping something loud beside them.

Eventually, we want a dog who is secure and confident enough to find loud bangs and flashes a bit boring.  Don’t think that you cannot cuddle your dog if they are scared, just make sure that you are not afraid of their fear!

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £8 +£1.40 p&p and all profit goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

Dalmatian – Interview with an owner

Dalmatian – it’s spotty dog!

The Dalmatian is from the utility group of dog breeds; this group is for dogs that do not easily fit into one of the other groups!  The Kennel Club describes the breed as follows:

“In the Regency period 1795-1837 the Dalmatian breed became a status symbol, trotting alongside the horse-drawn carriages and those with decorative spotting were highly prized. For this reason he earned the epithet ‘the Spotted Coach Dog’. The dogs would also guard the stables at night. The breed was also used to run ahead of horse-drawn fire engines clearing the route for the vehicles.”

dalmatianOf course most of us know them from the famous Dodie Smith book ‘101 Dalmatians’ and the films based on the book.  Certainly they are a very distinctive breed, but what are they like to own?  Sarah tells us how she came to own her first one:

“We wanted a medium-sized dog, that was active, fun-loving, family orientated, but also could be independent of us. Our first  shortlist of possible dogs did not include the Dalmatian.  Then I saw one walking through our village and thought it a handsome dog.  We repeated our research and added the Dalmatian to the list.  The next weekend there were Dalmatian puppies advertised in the local paper and we found a wonderful dog.”

Active, loyal and affectionate

Sarah says that their Dalmatians have exceeded their expectations. They were a little concerned about the breed’s reputation for being a bit mad and uncontrollable, but quickly found that with adequate exercise, the Dalmatian is a relatively calm dog, who is fun-loving and loves to play.

dalmatianSarah’s dogs, Dice and Lola are very affectionate and happy to see her, greeting her with that Dalmatian smile!  They are more than happy to be an oversized lap dog and love human contact,  sitting touching her legs and feet.

Great stamina

Dalmatian dogs love to walk and are great if you want to keep up an active lifestyle. Sarah found with an hour plus walk in the morning, a half hour walk with a dog walker at lunch time and a hour plus walk in the evening, together with a bit of play time, Dice and Lola have been independent enough to be left during the day.

The Dalmatian loves active holidays, long walks in the country, paddling in the sea and exploring the beach.  Sarah often takes them out on car journeys as they love being with her.  They also loved doing dog agility and dog training.

dalmatianThey are very strong dogs and have the stamina to walk for miles, but will still play in the evenings.  Despite being well-built dogs, their appearance is elegant.  Sarah has noticed that Lola has a stronger tendency to guard than Dice.  She can be over-protective of them, which can be tricky if nervous people are visiting.

Easy care dogs

The Dalmatian is not a fussy eater and as they are smooth coated, they are easily cared for on a day-to-day basis.  However, although they have a smooth, short coat, they do shed hair continuously.  The fur is about the size of an eyebrow hair which Sarah says sticks to everything!  Dalmatians will also eat anything, so you do have to be careful about unattended food.

“The Dalmatian dog is also moderately difficult to train, having an independent streak to their characters.  A sufficient supply of treats can overcome this.”

Deafness is common in the Dalmatian

Although they are generally robust physically, Dalmatians are notoriously prone to deafness and breeders should have their hearing checked.  The deafness is caused by a link to the white ear gene.  (Incidentally, Border Collies can also suffer deafness as a breed, so all my puppies to date have been BAER tested.)  For more information, go to the Animal Health Trust’s pages, including Deafness in Dalmatians.

dalmatianLola is deaf in one ear, but this has never made any difference to her, so Sarah feels it does not matter much.  It is quite common to have a deaf dog, as many dogs lose their hearing in old age.  Dogs and owners usually manage perfectly well.  However, like everything else to do with owning a dog, it does take awareness and effort to ensure you have a healthy, happy animal.

Active families required

Sarah feels that a Dalmatian would fit well with people and families who have a commitment to the dog and its exercise requirements.  A Dalmatian would probably not be suitable for a family with very young children, as they can be boisterous and time-consuming in their exercise requirements (they are not small, delicate dogs!)  They would be suitable for a family that has older children or teenagers.

dalmatianSarah’s advice before buying one:

“Research the breed on the internet, read books and information from the Kennel Club.  Talk to owners of the breed and the breeders.”

Thank you Sarah for this fascinating insight into this adorable breed!

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £8 +£1.40 p&p and all profit goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

Border Collie: Interview with an owner

Border Collie – what are they like to own?

Today I am interviewing myself.  I was in an agility class on Saturday morning with five other people and Busy was the only Border Collie in the class.  This is fairly unusual, although increasingly agility is being done by all sorts of people and dogs, as people realise just how much fun it can be!

Border CollieI said to Busy “now behave, you are representing Border Collies here!”  I was struck by just how much she is typical of her breed, and how different that looks compared with the Cocker Spaniels, Labrador, German Shepherd and Terrier that were in the class with us.  So what exactly does make this breed different?  And why would you choose it, or NOT choose it?  I have had a page on Border Collie Breed Information which talks about what makes them so special since I first started this website, but I thought I would try and offer a more direct comparison with other breeds.

Intelligence – the No 1 trait

Everyone knows that Border Collies are intelligent.  According to the Stanley Coren Intelligence of Dogs list they are the most intelligent breed.  But what does that mean?  Everyone believes that being really intelligent means:

“Border Collies are easy to train”

To some extent that is true.  They have a fantastic desire to work and to please.   That means they will try really hard to figure out what you want and will then do it for you.  However, it also means they can easily outsmart you!  If you don’t believe me, try visiting my house.  If you go outside with my dogs, you will discover after about 30 seconds that you are throwing a ball!  No matter who you are or what you think you wanted to do, you will be THROWING A BALL!  Sunny will train you to do this instantly.  This is what happens:

  • Sunny finds a ball
  • Sunny brings it to you
  • She looks at you with pleading eyes, quite obviously saying “throw the ball”
  • If you fail to pay attention to this instruction, she will pick the ball up and throw it at you, then do a bit of ‘woo wooing’ to get your attention
  • You throw the ball

Seriously, she is relentless.  I have seen her do this with toddlers who can barely walk, never mind throw a ball.  She will insist that everyone, of any age, throws the ball.

Border Collies train you.  They are so smart, they figure out how to get you to do what they want.  Then they never let up.

Border CollieFitting into family life

I have had seven Border Collies and I personally have never owned another breed.  So you could say my experience is limited, but I certainly do know about this breed.  I have written about my life in dogs up until the point of getting Sunny, who is definitely my dog of a lifetime.  Re-reading these posts, it seems clear to me that I never chose to have Border Collies, they were chosen for me.  I never considered how well they fitted into my lifestyle, or whether there were other alternatives.  This is the breed for me and no dog I have ever met has made me think differently.

Over the past 12 years, since owning Sunny, my experiences of Border Collies have changed my views of the breed and their suitability for family life.  I think they are great in a family, provided they have been well bred, well raised and are well managed!  Which is a challenge in itself, isn’t it?

I think if you take on this breed on purpose, after full consideration, you might just be able to cope.  They are potentially fun to have, as you can certainly train them to do a myriad of different tricks, sports and activities.  But that is the key – you must do something.

Difficult characteristics

A Border Collie who is left to its own devices can be:

  • neurotic
  • snappy
  • reactive to children, other dogs, cats, cars, etc
  • obsessive
  • manic
  • demanding

I am so used to the tendency towards these characteristics that I don’t always recognise these things in my own dogs.  Generally, I believe my dogs to be calm, well trained, well behaved and super friendly.  However, they are definitely demanding and their behaviour can be ‘full on’ if I do not pay attention.

Border CollieOunce demands that I play with her at various intervals throughout the day and gets really cross and shouty if I don’t do as she wants.  Aura gets really worked up over kitchen noises and when people arrive.  Busy struggles to control her excitement and then cannot listen to instructions.  Sunny is as I have already explained ;-).  (Luna is lovely.)

I often tell people that Border Collies are the most commonly re-homed breed.  I think this is not entirely true, but very often they are just too much for people.

How much exercise?

I have talked about how much exercise  dogs should have in general.  A Border Collie will basically have as much as you want to give it.  My 79 year-old mum potters along the shoreline with hers, (Luna’s sister) and that’s fine.  Mine have an hour off lead, plus training and play.  Most people do way more than that.  It doesn’t really matter.  What is really important is that they have a routine and a consistent amount of exercise so that they are not over-exerted suddenly.  Of course if they are fit, they will easily cope with the odd mountain walk on holiday.

Unlike some breeds, Border Collies are designed to go all day, every day.

A word of caution here; do not let your dog tell you how much exercise they want and DO NOT THINK YOU CAN TIRE IT OUT!  That would be a big mistake.  Border Collies do not tire.  Sunny did the Three Peaks with my sons a few years ago.  She would walk up and down a mountain for 6 or 7 hours, sit in the pub for a bit and then play frisbee with the kids in the campsites.  NB: You MUST let your dog rest properly, so that they learn to be calm.  If you let it, your Border Collie will just keep going.  The Duracell Bunny has nothing on a Border Collie!

Border CollieHealth issues

Border Collies are really tough, resilient dogs.  They have few health issues, the most notable being epilepsy.  Sadly, there is currently no test for this, so we try to prevent it through careful, responsible breeding.  Other health issues, such as Collie Eye Anomaly and Hip Dysplasia are tested for prior to breeding.

Collies to have a tendency towards sensitivity with their digestion.  They are not a foraging breed, not being particularly food driven, but can have issues with sickness and are inclined to be fussy eaters.

They may also be injured through a tendency to tear around, as well as taking part in more dog sports than most breeds.  They are known for hiding injuries though, as they would rather just keep going.

Best advice?

Get a Border Collie if you like a challenge!  They are not a breed for lazy people.  Not just because they definitely, absolutely, categorically should be exercised, but because they demand stimulation.  This can be play, or training, or tricks, or just cuddles and conversation.  Anything will do, just DO IT! (throw the ball :p)

Border CollieFundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £10 +p&p and £2 goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

Ball Play – what are the rules?

Ball games: how should you play with your dog?

All dogs love to play with a ball, right?  Not quite.  Most dogs do like a ball, but this can range from being happy to chew a ball to pieces in two seconds flat, to being completely ball obsessed.  I thought it might be useful to consider whether it is useful to have your dog play ball with you.  Is it a good game to play?  And what are the rules?

ball gamesDifferent breeds, different interests

Not every breed of dog is going to be interested in playing with a ball.  If you have read my Breed Blog you will already have seen that different dogs definitely have different characteristics.  Terriers are tenacious and persistent; they will hunt down their quarry and well, kill it!  So a ball probably won’t last that long in their company.  Certainly a squeaky toy is not going to last.  Gundogs and Working breeds are all pretty likely to enjoy destroying the toy more than playing with it.

ball gamesToy dogs are not really bothered about a ball.  They don’t have a prey drive, so won’t bother to hunt something down.  They won’t bother with much, to be honest, as they are designed to sit quietly and be fussed.  A toy dog, such as a Bichon Frise, has been carefully constructed to be generally undemanding.  That’s not to say they aren’t divas!

Any dog from the Pastoral breeds, including the Border Collie, will be more likely to enjoy ball games.  They enjoy chasing something and they like to run around.  So if you fancy a having a dog that will play for any length of time, then go for a dog from this group of breeds.

What is the purpose of ball play?

As I see it, ball games serve a number of purposes:

  • physical exercise – this can be really important if you only have one dog, or if you don’t have much time to go on long walks.
  • mental exercise – waiting for you to throw a ball, watching where it goes and chasing after it, then bringing it back are all mentally demanding tasks for your dog.
  • bonding – playing a game with your dog of any kind will improve your relationship.  The more you play, the more likely your dog is going to want to stay with you.
  • training – playing with a ball can be very rewarding for your dog, so if you want them to work on something, it can be a fantastic ‘release’ at the end.

Problems with ball games

The biggest problem with ball games is that the dog won’t bring the ball back!  This takes training and patience, as with all activities you do with your dog.  It is worth persevering, but for some dogs, they just don’t really get it.  Sometimes a dog will struggle to see the value in the game, although this may be because you are not sufficiently exciting!

ball chuckerAnother issue with ball play is that you overdo it.  This is easily done, particularly if you have a ball chucker.  It’s a great tool for making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, if they need it, but it can easily cause injury and be over-used.

My top tip: Don’t overdo it!

Watch your dog and make sure they are not becoming exhausted, or over-stimulated.  Pay attention to the weather so that they don’t become over-heated.  Make sure they have plenty of time to experience their environment, to sniff and wander. Remember the reasons for walking our dogs?

Another problem with ball games is that the dog can easily become obsessive about having the ball thrown ALL the time.  You are in charge, so you decide when enough is enough.

Getting started

If your dog is not that interested in ball games, you will need to start slowly.  Begin at home.  Throw the ball a few feet away and wait for the dog to look at it.  Click or say ‘yes’ and give a food reward.  If the dog approaches the ball, reward.  If the dog touches the ball, reward.  When the dog picks the ball up, reward.  And when the dog turns towards you, big reward!  The more excited you are about the game, the more likely you are to succeed.

ball gamesAnother problem many people have with ball games is that the dog won’t give the ball back.  This may be because they are tired and don’t want to have to run after it again!  But it may be because they haven’t learnt that part of the game.

When Sunny was a young dog she would bring the ball near me, throwing it towards my feet.  I was at training with her and my trainer told me to wait for her to bring it right to me.  I stood and waited.  Sunny got really annoyed!  She kept picking up the ball and throwing it towards me, then barking at me, basically shouting at me to throw it again.  However, she eventually picked up the ball and put it in my hand.  Now whenever I say ‘hand’ she will do this, albeit rather crossly!  One way to get the ball off your dog is to swap the ball for a treat.

Ball games with multiple dogs

Just a quick word about playing ball games with many dogs.  Obviously different groups of dogs will have different dynamics, but please make sure that your dogs are happy playing together?  When I throw the ball with my girls, Aura is the only one allowed to pick it up. She then drops it for Sunny, who usually brings it back to me.  Or Aura brings it back to me herself.  Occasionally Busy runs past and sneakily picks up the ball.  She will then run in circles until Aura is not looking, when she drops the ball, so Aura can’t find it.  Dogs!

Have fun with your dogs.  Just remember to allow them time to sniff, even when they continue saying “THROW THE BALL!”

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £10 +p&p and £2 goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

Instruction Manuals: Should a dog come with one?

Instruction Manual for Dogs

I’m not a great one for reading instruction manuals.  Who does?  Well I can tell you – engineers do.  They know how things work and pay attention to the manuals, so they can fix it when it’s broken.  That’s (one of) the reason for marrying one :D.  They are clearly useful, but are they essential (manuals, not engineers)?  Should dogs come with one?

instruction manualsThis morning on my walk I met a couple with a young Border Collie.  Well I say met, what happened was this: I was walking across the field and the dog appeared from the other side, running flat out towards me and the girls.  ‘What a pretty collie’ I thought.  She said hello to mine, who remarkably didn’t mind (they often do).  I waited for a few minutes for the owners to come into view, shouting loudly at their dog to come back.

She’s friendly!

When their dog ran off in another direction after a Labrador, I released mine so they could cross the road onto the footpath I was heading down.  I was aware of continued loud shouting for the dog.  Then I looked round and she had reappeared, crossed the road and run to my dogs again.  Oops!  I called mine back to me and told them to wait.

The couple crossed the road and  were able to grab their dog.  This is what they then said to me:

  • She very friendly, just wants to play
  • Are yours Shelties as well
  • She’s only young
  • We’ve only had her for two weeks
  • We know it will take a year to teach her to come back

They had absolutely no idea what they were doing!

instruction manualsFirst things first

I could have started swearing and shouting (I was tempted) but I tried to help.  I said a few things, including “make sure you always have LOTS of treats”.  They said “She’s not very food driven”.  I managed to find a few treats in my pocket, which I gave her.  She loved them, of course, sweet girl.  “Oh maybe she is food motivated” they said.  One of them produced a huge biscuit which she did eat.  I told them about the treats I use.  These are great for the following reasons:

  • cheap to buy
  • readily available
  • nice and small
  • easy to break into smaller pieces

Be exciting!

The next thing I talked to the couple about was how they needed to be MORE exciting than the things their girl was running off after.  I have talked about this A LOT already, here are some of the posts:

instruction manualsOff lead

I did also mention to them that I hoped they wouldn’t start keeping her on lead.  It is a relatively simple thing to teach a collie to come back to you and they are not the best dogs to walk on lead.  Again, I have talked A LOT about being off lead and why it is the best way forward, in my opinion.  But sometimes you need a safety net, and I think that a Long line offer that brilliantly well.

Instruction manuals are needed

The main purpose of this post though is really to talk about taking something or someone on without an instruction manual.  Why would you do that?  It seems incredibly naïve to think you can just get a dog (particularly one that is a year old, and a Border Collie to boot) and imagine that you will be able to manage it.  Oh she’s friendly!  Yes but lot of dogs are NOT friendly.  Once she has been bitten by a few, she will also NOT be friendly.  She will also be snappy and nervous and jumpy.  She may well run off if spooked by something. So much can go wrong!  Not least, she could have been run over this morning!

The key point I want to make today is that BORDER COLLIES ARE NOT EASY!  It’s so important, and so true, that I’m going to repeat it:


Actually, no dog is easy.  You need help learning about your dog.  There are plenty of people to ask and who are willing to provide practical, manageable tips, but you MUST ask for these!  Please?

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog.  This includes suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

If you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos.

Shaping behaviour: what is that?

Shaping in dog training – why do we do it?

What do you mean, shaping?  Let me try and explain.  Shaping is the term used to get the dog to do a desired behaviour simply by waiting until they do it and then rewarding it.  Sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it?  Normally when we want someone to do something for us, we ask them.  Please will you make me a cup of tea?  Then you reward them; thanks very much.  (It would be great if your dog could make you a cup of tea, wouldn’t it?)

But just as you can’t really get your dog to make you a cup of tea, you also can’t always explain to them what you want them to do.  Sometimes it is easier and more effective to wait for them to do something and then reward that.

shaping trainingWhy use shaping in dog training?

As I’ve said, it’s useful when you can’t easily show the dog what you want them to do.  It’s also a powerful way of training, because the behaviour is initiated by the dog and so they are trying to work out what is required.  It means that they are already really engaged with the learning process.

This is one of the things that makes Border Collies so ‘easy’ to train.  With many dogs, they don’t particularly care what you want them to do.  They might want you to give them a treat, but working out why you might give it to them is just too much effort!  They would rather just wait until you get bored, give in and give it to them anyway.   However, with patience and persistence, you can achieve results.

Border Collies want to please.  They really care what you are asking for and will try and problem solve to get a result.  They are able to keep trying and working until they get it right.  Basically, they have a good ‘learning ethic’.

What can be taught?

I remember when I took Sunny to early obedience lessons and she was called to the front to demonstrate how to teach ‘go to bed’.  The instructor had a carpet square by his feet.  He fed Sunny some treats, to get her interested.  Then he looked at the square.  Sunny tried doing a sit.  Then she went into a down.  All the time looking at him to see if she could have a reward.  He waited.  Finally she touched the carpet square.  He said ‘yes!’ (the same as using a clicker) and rewarded.  Within a few minutes she was going and sitting on the square.

In other words, you can teach all sorts of things using shaping training.  I’ve just been looking back on Ounce’s early training which is very sweet.  What a clever puppy she is!  I talked about shaping in relation to her understanding of verbal commands only.  As I say in that post, I was always thinking about her doing agility in the long run.  I carried on using shaping in her First agility steps.

Now I am putting it all together.  She’s been making fantastic progress considering how little actual training she has had and we are well on the way.  Ounce is eligible to compete from 18 months, but fortunately by the time she is that old, in December, there won’t be many shows on until the following April.  This gives us a few more months’ training time, which I am happy to have.

shaping trainingWeave training

For me, the weaves are the hardest bit about doing agility.  Some people find the ‘contacts’ hard, making sure the dog touches the painted sections at the bottom of the A frame, dog walk and seesaw.  I find the weaves torture!  With my 4 dogs I have tried various different methods and all of them seem to take years and years to master.

The biggest problem is that the dog must always enter the weaves with the first pole on their left shoulder.  Try explaining that to your dog!  The next problem is spacing.  If your dog goes too fast they will ‘pop out’ – something Sunny would always do, missing out a few in the middle.

Often the dog is guided into and through the weaves by you walking beside them, encouraging them and helping them to stay in rhythm.  This makes it extra complicated, as you have to be able to match your pace to theirs and be exactly the right distance away from them.  These dogs usually go slowly and are not very good at weaving when you are on the left hand side of the weaves.

Your dog must also go right to the end of the 12 weaves, persisting until they are all done.  Luna is brilliant at doing 10 weaves and then looking up at you and saying ‘that’s enough isn’t it?’  Cheeky.  It is hard work for them to get it right.  Busy is nearly five years old and she has only just mastered the weaves consistently.  What you really want is a dog who will go off and do them while you go haring off somewhere else, ready for the next bit of the course.

Look at Busy doing it perfectly:

Ounce shaping weaves

Here we go then, this is our third go with Ounce.  We are only using two weave poles, so it seems completely random.  But this will soon build up…

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?