Category Archives: A Year With Your Puppy

AYWYP: WEEK 48 – Temperament in Dogs

Testing temperament

Following on from my post about health testing, in order to produce ‘The dog of your dreams’ it is also important to breed for temperament. Now I’ve had my dog for almost a year, I have been reflecting on his temperament and what makes him the way he is. Of course, he is a Border Collie, first and foremost, so his behaviour will always reflect that.

Temperament in Border Collies
well behaved dogs

It is interesting to me that many of my ‘dog friends’ say to me things such as ‘all your dogs are so good natured/well behaved/lovely temperaments’. They know about dogs and they think it significant that mine are all ‘nice’ dogs. Someone recently said “It’s so good to come into your house and the dogs are just pleased to see you. There’s no chaos, or fighting, or anything like that.” When I first had a person come to look after them when we went away, she couldn’t believe they all got on so well. So how do I do it?

Nature vs nurture

 I’m a psychologist (in as much as it was my degree subject), so I understand the interplay between nature and nurture. It’s easiest to think of it as the balance between being biologically programmed to behave a certain way, or being brought up to be like that. Of course it’s not an either/or situation, both are crucial in creating the dog you want (or the person, come to that).

Temperament in Border Collies
Temperament as expected

Starting with nature, I choose stud dogs from lines that I study and understand to be good-natured. I have tended to stick with the Goytre lines, because I know the temperament of these dogs is fantastic. However, I don’t want my dogs to be too inbred, so I sometimes need to add different lines. This means I might end up with different temperaments.

Nurturing temperament

As I say all over this website, my puppies are given a brilliant start in life, with loads of positive experiences. They are cuddled every day, meeting plenty of people, including children. Puppies in my house spend time around dogs of different ages and temperaments, so they should cope better when they are out in the world.

Border Collie temperament
Sound temperament

That covers the first eight weeks, but after that, it is over to their owners to define their temperament. I have had dogs I’ve bred be nervous of children, because they haven’t spent time around them, once they have gone to their new homes. So different experiences continue to have an impact.

Different characteristics

When I had the Rainbow Litter, I had one of the owners ask me about managing the ‘herding instinct’ that Ounce’s brother was showing. “I’ve never had to manage that, mine don’t really do that,” I said. Then Ounce started herding off other dogs. Hmm, a new characteristic to manage! That litter are also real water babies – thanks to their lovely dad, Sox!

Border Collies
Ounce’s dad

Not all my dogs are the same. I can see likenesses between them, but also differences. It’s fascinating to see the traits develop. And to see the likenesses within and between litters. When I’m doing agility with Busy, people always say ‘She’s so fast!’ to which I respond ‘Just like her mum!’

Can you change it?

Dogs, like people are a mix of their biology and their upbringing. So you can influence how they are, up to a point. When I look at Quin, I can see he is a lovely nature. Like Busy, he’s generally calm and laid back. But then he barks at other dogs, or something on TV! Funny boy. I’ve worked hard on the barking at other dogs and he’s more or less stopped doing that. I think that yes, you can change their temperament, a bit.

Border Collies
Like mother like son

It’s complicated isn’t it? I do my best to make lovely dogs – the dog of your dreams. Sometimes it goes it bit wrong (Aura :p). Oh she’s lovely, I’m only kidding. Hopefully it’s given you food for thought.

Weekly Focus Challenge

How is your dog’s temperament?  Has this changed much since they came home to you?  What do you like about them?  What would you change?  Do you think you can change anything much about their temperament? 

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 50 – Separation Anxiety

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is defined as when your dog shows signs of stress at being left, usually in the house on their own.  The dog will often bark, or howl, sometimes for long periods.  This may result in complaints from neighbours.

separation anxiety
Happy dog

Can your dog stay calmly in another room?

Other symptoms can include repetitive behaviours, such as chewing their paws or over licking themselves.  Or they might become destructive; chewing furniture or even the fabric of the house itself.  Sometimes dogs become ‘naughty’ – soiling in the house, or pulling rubbish from the bin. 

Quin used to chew cushions!  It may seem obvious that these behaviours are seeking attention, but that doesn’t make your life any easier!   Basically, your dog is not happy without you.

Starting young

In order to avoid separation anxiety, you first of all need to develop confidence in your dog.  They need to be certain of your love and your presence.  You need to spend time with them, playing and petting them.  If you have obtained a puppy from a KC Assured Breeder then they should be well socialised and used to normal family life.

border collie
not stressed

When you get your puppy home, it might be tempting to spend all day, every day with them, or to take them with you everywhere.  However, it is vital that your puppy is used to being left, right from the start.  I always have a Crate for my puppies and they sleep in this, in the kitchen, from day one.  They know that this is their bed and their safe space.  The puppy should be rewarded every time they are put into their crate.  Never use it as a punishment – if something has gone wrong, it was probably your fault!

Create calm

When you are in the house, try to encourage an atmosphere of calm.  Easier said than done, I know!  If you have children, there will inevitably be comings and goings, visitors and the normal hustle and bustle of family life.  But try nonetheless to ensure that for some of the day at least, the dog is able to relax, while you are relaxed.

separation anxiety
comfy on the sofa

Reward the behaviour you want

When you see your dog lying calmly, reward them.  The best way to do this is with a calm, gentle stroke and quiet verbal praise.  You can say something like “Good settle, well done”.

The next stage is to have your dog calm and relaxed away from you, while you are in the house.  Your dog might like lying at your feet, but they should equally be able to lounge around elsewhere.  Some dogs actively seek other space – Busy prefers to lie by the front door.  Again, if this is a challenge for your dog, try leaving them for a few minutes, then return and praise.  Gradually build up the time, until they are not fussing to come back to you. This will help prevent separation anxiety from building up.

Go out without them

It is hard for dogs to understand that you will be back and this is the main cause of separation anxiety.  You cannot explain to them that all is fine and you’ll be back soon.  However, if you make it seem like no big deal, there is more chance that they will remain calm when you are not around.  Try to avoid giving them a great big welcome when you come back – just walk in and get on with making a cup of tea.  Then when you are settled, give them some love.

border collie
not bothered

As with all training and behaviour, you must practice if you want success.  So don’t spend all day every day with your dog and then expect them to manage without you.  Equally, going out to work for ten or twelve hours every day is a bit unfair on a dog.  I used to think that no-one should ever work full time and have dogs.  But I understand now that it is not that simple.  Dogs naturally sleep for most of the day.  So if they are given a walk or two, are able to go to the toilet every few hours (or have a run or yard to stay in), then they are probably fine.  Equally, if you have more than one dog, they will interact with each other.  NB: I am not suggesting you get two puppies together!

Provide stimulation

Dogs do need something to think about! In the wild they would be hunting for food, which they clearly do not need to do in our homes.  Having said that, you can buy interactive feeding bowls that help the dog eat more slowly, or keep them entertained for longer. 

You can also buy interactive toys for your dog.  Although having a box of toys and a few bones to chew will provide plenty of stimulation.  Empty yoghurt pots or drinks bottles can provide hours of fun! 

Dogs do like company, but there are lots of options.  I always leave the radio on when I’m out.  If we are out in the evening, I might stick the TV on – lots of dogs watch TV.   And dogs don’t have to have other dogs for company; many dogs enjoy being around other animals, such as cats. Finally, you can of course hire a dog walking service, who will come in and let your dog out, spend time with them or take them for a walk.

Weekly Focus Challenge

How well does your dog cope with being left?  What do you do to help them when you go out?  How often do you leave them?   Is there anything you think you could, or should do differently?

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 51 – Breeder contact

When to contact your breeder

In these days of reviews, ratings and feedback, it seems important to keep in touch with my customers and make sure that the ‘products’ I have produced are up to scratch. But people contact their breeder for all sorts of reasons and sometimes this is hard to deal with. So how much breeder contact have you had and has it been helpful and positive?

Border Collies
8/10 litters

Star rating for Responsible Breeding

When puppies go off to their new homes, I give owners a ‘New Owner Questionnaire’ to complete and return to the Kennel Club. This has been done as a paper form to complete and post, but the Assured Breeder reps at Crufts this year told me that the Kennel Club are emerging from the Dark Ages to put this online. I suggested that breeders need feedback from the owners and that positive feedback could be done with ‘star rating’. What do you think?

Breeder contact
The Punk Litter

Please do contact your breeder? You have had your puppy for almost a year – how have they turned out? Are you pleased, or a bit disappointed? What issues or challenges have you had? What do you think they could have done better?

Please contact the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Service to provide feedback on the breeder. You should have been given:

  • A Kennel Club Breed Registration certificate (did you change the ownership?)
  • Information about endorsements to protect against future breeding
  • A contract of sale, telling you to return the dog to the breeder at any point in the future
  • Information to help you, including tips on socialisation, exercise, feeding, grooming, vaccination and diseases, as well as breed traits and tendencies.

You should have seen the puppy with its mother, being fed and interacting with its siblings. There should have been time to ask the breeder questions and see the breeder’s dogs and the way they were kept. You should have been questioned about your suitability to have the dog. The puppy must have been microchipped.

Responsible breeder
A responsible breeder

If you feel that any of this was missing or not done well, please provide feedback? Of course if it was done well, that’s equally good to know!

Initial support

When my puppies first go off to their new homes, I really love to hear how they are getting on. It’s fantastic to hear that they have settled well, are behaving themselves and coping with their new lives. These days I set up a WhatsApp group for each litter, so that the owners can talk to each other, as well as to me. This has resulted in some owners becoming friends and meeting up, which is fantastic.

Border Collie puppy
Off to their new homes

This also provides real support when things don’t go quite according to plan! It’s easy for me to jump in with ‘helpful advice’ but I do try to let owners talk to each other and share their experiences. Anyway, I don’t always know the answer! I also have a Dentbros Puppies Facebook group for ALL the owners and lovers of my pups.

Ongoing breeder contact

Some people travel quite a distance to get their new puppy. Finding the right breeder is a real challenge, especially these days when puppies bred responsibly are in such short supply. After all, puppies are not toilet paper, as we should know!

Breeder contact

So I don’t expect to see all my puppies on a regular basis. I have been fortunate that many of my pups have gone to homes local to me, or to family or friends. That’s wonderful, but not always possible. When they live further away, I don’t expect to see them often, if at all.

Useful feedback

With most owners, I tend to only hear if there are problems. This can be relating to behaviour, or with health issues. It is really helpful for me to know if a dog I have bred is having difficulties. This might inform my decisions regarding breeding in the future. I also need to pass on any real concerns to the owners of the stud dogs I have used.

Border Collies
From my first and second litter

Breeding for ‘better temperament and health‘ means constantly striving to improve the breeding of my dogs. Each generation should be better than the previous one. Healthier, with the right temperament for the breed and the homes the dogs are going to.

Breeding mentoring

Increasingly, people who own my puppies want to breed from them. They are wonderful dogs after all! This is a bit of a minefield for me, if I’m honest. I have built up years of knowledge and experience in breeding and believe I do it well. If people breed from the dogs I have produced, will they do it responsibly? I don’t want people doing it ‘just for fun’, or because ‘it’s nice for the dog’. Consider the reasons not to breed from your dog, please?

Border Collie stud
A future stud dog

If you do want to go ahead, you will need to start off by doing the necessary health testing for your breed. You should then talk to your breeder and ask them to mentor you. This can be really challenging as the breeder; you can end up feeling as though you have done all the work with none of the reward!

Proud of my puppies

The best feedback a breeder can get is to hear of their puppies’ successes. Winning classes, in any dog activity, even if it is just for ‘prettiest eyes’ at a local dog show. It’s brilliant to see a real partnership developing and I know that some of my puppies have the potential to go all the way with their owners. One day the Dentbros name will appear on TV, with a dog I’ve bred competing at Crufts, in the main arena!

Border Collies
A future agility champion

I am equally proud to see healthy, happy dogs, living their best lives. Knowing that they are bringing pleasure to their families every day, doing the job they have been bred to do. So please contact your breeder to give this feedback as well?

Border Collies
bringing joy

We do have reunions, which is wonderful, although quite a challenge! Ask your breeder if they do this and see if you can meet the other owners from your litter – it’s a lovely experience 🙂

Weekly Focus Challenge

What did you think of your dog’s breeder?   How much contact did you have with them before collecting your dog?  How much contact have you had since then?  Has it been useful and positive?  Would you like to meet up with other puppy owners from that litter?

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 52 – A Year With Your Puppy!

Let’s celebrate! It’s been a year!

Well here we are! I am as surprised as you are that we have got to a year of owning a puppy! How’s it been for you? As expected? Better? Or worse? What have been the highlights? What have been the unexpected challenges?

The year we’ve had

For me, the biggest, well really the only problem is the ‘barking at other dogs’. He is still doing it and it is still driving me mad. I call him and he comes. He stops barking and says ‘sorry mum I forgot’. Silly boy! I apologise and the other person says ‘It’s fine’. I say ‘it’s not fine, he’s annoying.’ We walk on. Oh and this morning he found some fox poo for his neck. Lovely!

Border Collie a year
Quin at a year

Chris and I absolutely adore our boy – he’s the best. We love how he barks at random stuff on the TV. It’s so sweet to see him playing with Murmur and he’s great with all the girls. He’s such a goof. I love it when he snuggles up next to me on the sofa, chewing on a bone. And he’s so handsome!

We think he’s turned out pretty well. I feel confident taking him pretty much anywhere, as long as I watch him around other dogs. He’s perfectly friendly (no really), meaning we can walk with friends or chat to people. He just likes to shout when he sees another dog.

Let’s revisit the questions I asked you 6 months ago about your dog. Do you know them better now?

Around the house

  1. What is your dog’s favourite food? Are they a good eater? Do they need to be slowed down when eating? Nothing has changed with his eating and he continues to be fine.
  2. What treats or snacks does your dog like? Raw carrot is a favourite of my dogs. They all love crisps and will offer lots of tricks to win these!
  3. Where does your dog like to sleep? Do they go on the sofa or your bed? Or do they prefer to find a quiet corner? I’m putting money on the fact they don’t often sleep in that expensive bed you bought? My dogs like a raised bed with some lovely vet bed on it. They usually just lie on the floor, or the sofas, of course.
  4. When does your dog wake up in the morning? What time do they go to bed? Does this work well with your routine? Your dog should be happier being left for longer periods, both day and night. What arrangements do you make when you are out?
  5. How often does your dog need to go out to toilet? Do they always go in the same place? Do they prefer to toilet in the garden or on a walk? I like my dogs to be able to toilet in the garden, so that I don’t have to take them out – it’s so much more convenient. But I know they prefer to toilet on a walk. So I make sure I pick up after them in the garden as well as on walks and I walk them after breakfast so they can toilet then.
Border Collie
A favourite spot

Out and about

  1. How often do you take your dog out for a walk? Do you go at the same time each day? For the same length of time? My dogs have an hour long walk, off lead, around an hour after their breakfast, from 7.30 am.
  2. Where does your dog like walking? Do you go to different places, or do the same trudge every day? Dogs love variety and thrive on visiting different walks. My dogs love the woods! So many interesting smells 🙂
  3. Where else have you taken your dog? Have they been to the pub? Or to a cafe? It’s a good to show off your dog and give them a different experience. Quin continues to get out and about and enjoys the experience.
  4. Have you visited someone else’s home with your dog? Don’t be afraid to take them into new situations? Quin has carried on going into school and behaves himself brilliantly (apart from barking at the chickens).
  5. Have you taken your dog away? Quin has been up to Scotland and down to Devon – he loves it!
Border Collie a year
still loving the beach

Tricks and games

  1. Can your dog do the basics? Sit, down, wait? How often do you practise these? Every few days is a good starting point.
  2. How is your dog’s recall? How often do you practise this? Quin is perfect at recall – hurray! <smug>
  3. Can your dog do any other tricks? We’ve done lots of tricks and Quin and I both really enjoy this.
  4. What’s your dog’s favourite game to play with you? If you have other dogs, do they play together and what games do they play? Quin has a new playmate! He and Murmur play together a lot. So sweet.
  5. Does your dog engage with other dogs when out on walks? Do they try and say hello nicely, or bounce into other dogs’ faces? Still annoying. Not fixed. It’s not the end of the world, but it is irritating.

Training and activities

  1. What classes have you done with your puppy? Have you carried on with any classes? What did you learn?
  2. Have you considered doing the KC Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme?
  3. Have you tried out other types of training? Quin has started Hoopers, which he enjoys.
  4. Now your dog is a year old, perhaps you could start agility?
  5. Obedience training is another way to challenge you and your dog and build on your working relationship.
Border Collie
Hoopers

Health and breeding

  1. What do you think of your dog’s breed now? Has your dog continued to be typical of their breed?
  2. How healthy is your dog? Have you been to the vet?
  3. Have you had support from your breeder? Have you been in touch with the owners of your puppy’s siblings? Each of my litters has a WhatsApp group, so they can share problems and celebrate successes!
  4. Are you happy with way your dog was bred? Do you think they were given the best start in life? I have learnt that it makes a difference. A puppy that is cuddled every day likes being cuddled. It’s that simple.
  5. Is there anything about getting your puppy that you would do differently?
Border Collie
the boy

Enjoy your puppy now

Your dog may not be perfect, but they are part of your family. You have already had them for around a twelfth of their life. Think about what you were doing 11 years ago? Not long is it? A year in their life is such a long time. Celebrate your puppy and the joy they have brought you.

Congratulations on surviving a year with your puppy.  I hope it has been a wonderful, fulfilling experience, full of joy.  I hope you have learnt a great deal about owning a dog and that you will help others to understand why owning a dog is one of the best things you can do in life.  Please do contact me to let me know how it’s been and what you have learnt?

A Year with your puppy
Love him

Weekly Focus Challenge

Please take a moment to reflect on your successes and the remaining challenges? Think about what you’d like to do with your dog in future? Please do get in touch if you’d like to share any of the answers to my questions?

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 49 – Vaccinations

Vaccinations for your dog

We all know that puppies should be vaccinated, but how about ongoing vaccinations? There has been a growing and ever present ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement, which includes vaccinations for dogs, sadly. This preventative approach to serious disease has been around since Edward Jenner inoculated a 13 year-old-boy with vaccinia virus (cowpox), and demonstrated immunity to smallpox. In 1798, the first smallpox vaccine was developed. Dogs have been vaccinated for over forty years.

Puppy vaccinations
Puppies off to the vets

All vaccines carry a risk, but that risk of side effect is miniscule compared with the benefits. As the AAHA says “No medication is without risk, but the benefits of vaccinating pets certainly outweigh the few risks because many common vaccinations in pets protect against devastating diseases, and even death.”

Puppy vaccinations

Traditionally, puppies were always sent off having had their first set of vaccinations.  However, when I took Sunny along to be registered with a vet, they insisted on starting the process off again, as they wanted to be happy that she had been given the same type of vaccination, from the same ‘batch’.

There are several different types and makes of vaccinations given to puppies and different vets have different practices and policies.  Some don’t want to vaccinate at 8 weeks, when puppies first arrive in their new homes.  Some say the pups can go out within a week of the second vaccination, some want you to wait a bit longer.

Puppy vaccinations
Mother’s immunity

Puppies are covered by the mother’s immunity when they are being fed by her.  These levels of immunity from the mother come from the first few days of feeding and this can last for variable amounts of time, from 6 weeks up to 20 weeks.

Your vet will start your puppy on a course of vaccinations against the four main infectious diseases:

  • Canine Distemper
  • Hepatitis
  • Parvovirus
  • Leptospirosis

All these diseases are fatal, so it is vital that your dog is protected from these. More details about what vaccinations should be given and when can be found at KC health advice.

Can I take my puppy out before they have been vaccinated?

Yes.  You need to make sure they do not come into contact with dogs that have not had their vaccinations, or go someone where they might pick up these diseases.  However, it is really important for pups to get out and about, as long as they are carried, or you know the dogs they are mixing with.  It is great experience for your puppy and a chance to show them off to family and friends!  Use a handy Pet Sling such as this one and off you go!

Border Collies

Ongoing vaccinations – how often should they be done?

Once again, times have changed.  In the past, we accepted that we should vaccinate our dogs every year.  However, we have come to realise that it is not necessarily appropriate to give our dogs all these vaccinations.  Vets have discovered through scientific investigation that in fact the effect of the vaccinations last a bit longer than a year.  They have therefore reviewed their policy for vaccinating.

Border Collies
Protected from disease

My vet now carries out a rolling programme of vaccination.  They vaccinate against leptospirosis every year, but other diseases are done every other year, or every third year.  I have also discovered that the dogs are covered for up to 15 months.  I therefore make sure that I don’t now take them on the anniversary of their last vaccination, but wait until a bit later.  That saves me money and make sure that my dogs don’t get done unnecessarily.

Alternatives to vaccination

Some people feel that they would rather treat their dogs another way, rather than ‘over-vaccinating’.  They might ‘titer test’ their dogs, which is a blood test used to determine the level of immunity in the dog’s system.  This is fine, on the day of testing, but it is not a reliable measure of the long-term cover the dog has.

I value the knowledge and expertise of my vet.  I believe that they have spent years training and studying to understand what is best for my dog.  It’s easy to be critical of something you don’t understand, but I would prefer to trust a professional person, than go through the hassle of learning all about it myself.  I go to the MK Veterinary Group and I am happy with their service.

Border Collies
A huge hit with the vet staff

People complain that vets charge too much money, but it must cost a fortune to run a practice, ensuring that they are ready and able to deal with everything that we throw at them.  I think my Veterinary Practice is great!

Weekly Focus Challenge

I hope your dog has been vaccinated?  It will be time for their first annual booster shortly.  Check with the vet whether this needs to be done after 12 months or you can wait a bit longer?    

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 42 – Off lead

Walking off lead

Don’t punish your dog with your laziness? That’s harsh, I know. Please ask yourself, why your dog should be sentenced to a life of doing the same boring walks, on lead, because you haven’t bothered to build your confidence and let your dog off lead? Honestly, there is no excuse good enough for me.

Border collies off lead
Free to roam

Reasons for going off lead

Why should you bother? Simply:

  1. It’s more stimulating for the dog – you don’t have to stop every 10 seconds whilst they sniff something
  2. Being off lead is far better exercise – your dog will typically travel 3 or 4 times as far as you do, if they are off lead
  3. It’s safer – your dog can move away from anything they are not happy about.

I understand, it’s really challenging. And scary, really scary, letting your dog wander about without you being able to immediately control it. Things will definitely go wrong. That’s life. Don’t ruin it for your dog by restricting them their whole life? Here are the excuses and my responses. You may not like them…

My dog will get attacked

Dogs do get frightened. The more you worry, the more likely they are to be afraid, bark and be attacked. Dogs do not necessarily want to play or be friends with every dog they come across. That’s fine. You are there to watch out for them. Call them to you and either hold onto them, pick them up or just get their attention and reward them, as other dogs go past. Or let them look, sniff and wander over. Just observe and pay attention to the interaction. It’s fine.

Border collies off lead
Running about

Ideally, you want the other owner to also be paying attention and understanding what is happening. You can say ‘My dog is friendly’, but that is no good if the other dog is clearly frightened. That’s really annoying! But if your dog barks at another dog and you call him, apologising and getting hold of him, it’s fine. Isn’t it?

Border Collie
Annoying barking boy

I appreciate that small dogs are more vulnerable, but they are also more aggressive and annoying! Your dog may wind up a big dog get eaten! Watching them and calling them away should still work though. When a big dog is off lead and can get away, there isn’t much of a problem. All of this problem can just as easily happen with dogs on lead. In fact, dogs on lead are much more aggressive than those off lead.

My dog is scared of everything

Reactivity‘ in dogs is hard to live with. You want to protect your dog from the big scary world and the easiest way to do this is keep them on lead. Ultimately, you may find it too stressful walking a dog that is frightened of other dogs, or bikes, or cars. It is a tragedy if these dogs never go off lead and end up not being walked at all.

Border Collie
Walking in the woods

You can often fix this problem, with patience and persistence. As the owner of a barking, scared dog, I know that it is really challenging, but I persist in walking him off lead. On some days, I walk where (and when) it is much quieter, so we don’t have to deal with it at all. I’ve also found that walking in woods means the dogs we meet are more laid back and are also off lead, so it is much less of an issue.

My dog will run off

He might. Start by calling your dog at home. Does he come back? Did you reward him? Was there play and excitement from you? Have you practised recall hundreds of times? You should be able to understand your dog and his motivations, so that you know when he might run off.

Border Collies
Quick! Run away!

Lots of people say their dog will come back fine, until there is a distraction, such as another dog, or a squirrel. True, but it’s still possible to get them back, with enthusiasm, rewards and practice. Of course, some dogs get the scent of a squirrel or a deer and are off! They will run for miles, chasing something. Scary! I can’t really comment on what it is like to own a dog like this, but when I go to the woods, there are plenty of Spaniels and Hounds of all shapes and sizes, running around off lead. So it must be possible.

Border Collies
And back again!

My dog will get lost off lead

Some dogs do get lost. I’ve lost some of mine, over the years. Fortunately, they are required by law to wear a dog tag, with the name, address and phone number of the owner clearly shown. I recommend a flat ‘Indigo‘ tag, instead of a dangly one, although stupid people may not find this. If you have an old dog who does wander, how about a lovely yellow tabard with your number on it?

Border Collie off lead
Lost in the woods?

Fortunately, we are also now required to microchip our dogs, so if they are lost, they will be found and sent home. People are pretty caring. Social media is full of dogs being found and then reunited. It works, hurray.

My dog will get run over

Yes they might. If you walk beside a road and pay no attention to your dog. I have had one of my dogs hit by a car and it was awful. We were crossing a road, with 5 dogs off lead and one (Sunny) went before I was ready and bounced off the wheel of a car. I was lucky, because she suffered no injury at all, although the vets kept her in for observation.

Border Collie
Sunny

Did this stop me crossing roads with my dogs off lead? No, it did not. I’ll put the youngest on lead for a year or so, but I just pay close attention and manage them. I don’t recommend doing this, but it is possible. I don’t normally walk beside a road with them off lead. You have to do a risk assessment and decide what is right for your dogs.

Generally though, off lead is always better than on lead. If you keep your dog on lead, they are living a poorer life. In my opinion.

Weekly Focus Challenge

Do you let your dog off lead?  What are your reasons for doing or not dong this?  Please, please, please find a way to have a go at this?  Trust your dog?  They will thank you.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on your usual walk, why not try a different walk?  Or go to one of the growing number of ‘secure fields’.   

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 47 – Agility

Doing agility with your dog

Agility is my passion and one of the (many) reasons I have Border Collies. I loved watching it at Crufts growing up and when I got Sunny, it was always my intention to do agility with her. Little did I know how hard it would be! I’ve learnt more about myself doing agility than doing anything else in my life. Honestly.

Border Collies
Pixie at Crufts

I have written an introduction to agility elsewhere and I don’t really intend to cover that ground again here. I will just repeat the stated ‘objective’ here:

“Have fun with your dog!  It is vital to remember this, because agility is hard!  In competition, the objective is to get your dog round a course of 16-20 obstacles in the fastest time.  Easier said than done!”

Beginning agility

Don’t start too soon! I have delayed writing about it because it’s really important not to do too much too soon. It is a high impact sport and can easily lead to injuries for both you and your dog, if not done sensibly. You definitely do need a reasonable level of fitness yourself, especially if you want to get to the top level.

Border Collies
The top level

Your dog also needs to be able to move freely and easily. It’s no good going if your dog is overweight, or can’t run around for long periods. They should be around a year old when they start, so that their joints have had time to finish growing and developing. There is training you can do before you start, but the dog should not be jumping at all in their first year.

Small dogs can do agility

You need an experienced trainer, with a full set of proper equipment and ideally a good quality training area, either indoors or outdoors. I’ve always trained outdoors, but obviously you are then at the mercy of the weather, which can lead to weeks of training being lost.

How long does it take to learn?

I’ve been doing agility for 15 years now, but I only do a couple of hours a week. I’ve trained 5 dogs and all of them have had time off for puppies. Some people take to it really quickly, if they and their dog are young and fit. Other people get their own equipment, or become a trainer, spending many more hours per week training.

Border Collies
Luna having the best time

I’m a great believer in the fact that it takes 10,000 hours to learn a skill. That’s a long time; I’ve probably done about 1500 hours so far… Of course I am not the only one doing agility – it’s a partnership between me and my dogs. And they have NOT done ten thousand hours! Nor will they, sadly, because a dog’s agility career will last for ten or eleven years, at best. Enjoy it while you can.

What’s so great about agility?

Dogs love it. Generally. Some cannot see the point of expending effort just because you ask them to. Border Collies love to be doing something and they love to please you, so it is heaven for them. They love it so much that there are classes just for collies (NBC – Nothing But Collies,) and classes for everyone else (ABC – Anything But Collies). If you really want to avoid collies, you’ll need a small dog, as Border Collies come in all shapes and sizes – Large, Intermediate AND Medium!

Charlie winning grade 1

I love agility because I am competitive, so I like the challenge of improving and measuring that improvement. If I’d known how long that improvement would take to achieve, I might have started doing something easier, like knitting.

Agility with your dog
Which way now?

Why is agility so hard?

Dogs can’t read numbers, so you have to tell them which way to go. Do you know your left and right? Can you run, wave your arms in a clear way AND shout directions? Are you able to remember a sequence of obstacles and work out which of the 8 possible ways to tackle these will work best for you and your dog? Do you run faster than your dog?

Aura winning at grade 5

A year ago I went to an agility show, looking forward to demonstrating the skills I had worked so hard to acquire. The courses were set for the next level up, with skills that my dog and I did not have. I had no chance. It was an utterly demoralising experience. Last weekend I went to another show, full of dread and with no expectations. Busy bombed round, sometimes going over the right obstacles, but not necessarily in the right order. Aura and I perfectly executed the skills we had, over two entirely appropriate courses. We won. Twice. The satisfaction is indescribable.

Agility with your dog
Sunny won!

Either way, the dogs had fun and I took the best ones home. Love my dogs. Love doing agility. Sometimes. Always grateful to my wonderful trainer, Emma Conlisk at Beancroft. For more information (and to enter a show) have a look at Agilitynet. Finally, for some real inspiration into what can be achieved, watch my amazing friend Sam Lane and her incredible Ninja Zippy.

Weekly Focus Challenge

Do you fancy giving agility a go?  Look for a reputable trainer via social media – ask in local dog groups.  Go along and watch first; it’s not like it is on the telly!  Your dog will need to be fit and able to run around before starting agility.

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 46 – Breed health

How good is your dog’s health?

Beautiful Border Collies, bred for better temperament and health. That’s the tagline for this website and it sums up my ethos as a breeder. The breed health of my dogs is VERY important to me and above all, I want to produce dogs that go on to have long and happy lives.

Border Collie breed health
Sunny, nearly 15 years old

When I ask prospective owners I ask them ‘what is the best and worst thing about owning a dog?’ For me, the worst thing by a mile is coping with a sick and dying dog. It’s absolutely heart breaking. Perhaps it won’t surprise you to know that I monitor the health of all the puppies I’ve produced, recording all their health issues, as far as I can.

How often do you go to the vet?

I’ve been keeping a record of all my vet visits for the last five years. I’ve been 59 times! Wow those vets must love me. Let me break that down a bit more:

  • I’ve had five dogs throughout that time and now have six. So that’s around 12 times per dog.
  • Luna was diagnosed with diabetes after losing her litter, so has been 23 times. She has to be regularly monitored, with blood tests and glucose curves. She has never had a ‘crisis’ and her diabetes continues to be well managed, despite her now being 12 years old.
  • 27 visits have been for vaccinations. Routine, annual check-ups.
  • Sunny was 11 years old five years ago and suffered from arthritis, for which she had medication for a while. She also had pyometra, which involved an emergency operation. She was taken ill and was put to sleep last March, aged 15 (3 visits).
  • I’ve had 5 litters over the past five years. Two of the girls, (Aura and Busy) have now been spayed.
  • This total does not include visits for health testing, such as eyes and hearing.
Border Collies
my diabetic dog

Without the diabetes and the routine vaccination visits, that’s only 9 visits in 5 years! Maybe I’ve missed a few, but actually, that’s not far off. Pretty amazing isn’t it? Thanks to Milton Keynes Veterinary Group for their care of my animals.

Be prepared

Most people insure their pets, although this is not a legal requirement. Is it worth it? I can’t answer that, because I have never insured my pets. I’m fortunate to have enough money to pay for vet bills and with multiple dogs, the premiums would be enormous.

Labrador breed health
the healthiest breed?

Whether you insure them or not, be prepared for them to be ill. They will definitely be ill during their lifetime! Sadly, some breeds are much more prone to illness and health problems than others. Someone recently said that they wouldn’t get another Labrador, because the one she’d just lost had had cancer. I’ve spoken to a couple of vets since then, who agree that Labs are one of the healthiest breeds you can have. As long as their hips and elbows have been checked before being used for breeding.

Breed health issues

Sadly, some breeds have inherent health issues. Most notably the brachycephalic breeds, such as the Pug, or any kind of bulldog. I’ve already talked about the poor bulldog at this year’s Crufts and what the Kennel Club are doing about it.

Pugs
Not healthy

There are lots of breeds that can live fit, healthy, happy lives. Top tip: Get a dog that looks like a dog! The more this animal is distorted, the more likely it is to have problems.

“One way of reducing your pet insurance bill it to avoid dog breeds that attract higher premiums, such as Great Danes, French Bulldogs or Chihuahuas. Research by Which? consumer group found choice of breed made a difference by as much as £450 to an annual premium.”

Financial Times

Living a long life

Generally, dogs live for around 10-12 years. However, this will vary according to many factors. A recent paper published by VetCompass shows that brachycephalic breeds like the French Bulldog live on average for just 4.5 years, compared to Border Collies, who live just over 12 years, on average.

Life expectancy
Living the longest, almost

This statistic is skewed by high puppy mortality in some breeds compared to others. I’ve only had one puppy die soon after birth. Of the remaining 64, all but three are still alive, with six of my first litter of seven pups still going. Hopefully that will continue..

Border Collies
12 year old sisters

If you want to improve your dog’s life expectancy, read my 7 tips on being a brilliant dog owner. Or read the article on the Collieology Facebook group.

Weekly Focus Challenge

How healthy has your dog been so far?  How many times have you been to the vet?  Has it been worthwhile having your dog insured?  Would you be able/prepared to pay £5000 to treat a complex medical condition? 

NB: Remember that people don’t become vets to make lots of money.  They do it because they LOVE animals.  If your dog has been poorly bred or raised, or has genetic problems, that is your problem. 

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 45 – Breed traits

Different breed temperament traits

It might seem strange to talk about breed traits now, when you have had your puppy for so long. But I think that until you really get to know your dog, it’s sometimes hard to understand what their character is like. How much of this is down to their breed? What will you be able to fix or what will you have to live with?

Poodle
bit nervous

Traits in popular breeds

Someone recently said to me that they found their dog could be quite nervous in new situations and was often quite shaky. It was a poodle, so I said ‘yes poodles tend to do that’. She was so surprised, because she wasn’t aware that it was one of that breed’s traits. So what other traits can we identify? How much is your puppy typical of its breed?

Labrador
Easy going

If you have a Labrador, you will know that they are laid back, easy-going and generally hoover up all food (and often non-food items) lying around. They are so lovable, which is why they remain one of the most popular breeds. But Labradors are also perfectly trainable and can hold down responsible jobs, most notably as Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Which group of breeds?

When considering what type of breed traits, or characteristics you would like in your dog, start off by thinking about the different dog breed groups. These are best described on the Kennel Club website, along with breed descriptions for all 222 breeds recognised by them. There are 7 breed groups:

  • hounds
  • toys
  • pastoral
  • utility
  • terriers
  • working
  • gundogs
Parson Russel traits
cheeky terrier

Each of these groups of breeds will have different breed traits. If you have a terrier, such as a Parson Russell, or Jack Russell, you should expect them to be tenacious, lively and demanding. A bit of an awkward sod in other words! Or officially “Bold and friendly; a confident, energetic and happy dog that has the ability and conformation to go to ground.” That means they will disappear down a rabbit hole, given the chance!

Easy to live with?

If you want your dog to be easy to live with, you need to pay attention to these breed traits. Many small dogs are much more inclined to bark at everything! Whereas bigger dogs can be more placid and less reactive.

greyhound
couch potato

All dogs need walking and time off lead to explore with their noses, at their own pace. Some breeds will be far more energetic and demanding than others though. So you need to account for that when you consider the breed traits. If you want a couch potato, a greyhound is a great option!

What traits can you change?

I’ve already talked in detail about temperament and how this can be a mix of nature and nurture. You need to think about what you have achieved so far and how much you will be able to change.

Border Collie traits
my barking boy

With Quin, I know he is a typical Border Collie. So I know that he won’t change much now. Like many of his breed, he can be anxious around other dogs, which makes him bark. I’m probably stuck with that now. So we just have to manage that and make sure it doesn’t get worse.

Mixed breed, mixed traits

I will just say, as I always do, that if you have a combination of breeds, you will have a combination of traits. So you won’t know exactly what sort of dog you are getting and it probably won’t be until you’ve had them a year that you can start to recognise which bits are from which parent (or grandparent).

Spaniel
lovely Spaniel

For example, if you have a cockerpoo, you may get a bright dog, that is a bit shaky and clingy, but also full of energy and very demanding. Actually, it’s pretty likely that that is what you’ve got! What do you think, is that ideal? It might look like a teddy bear, but is it confident and outgoing, easy to take out and about? Or does it bark and run off?

Weekly Focus Challenge

Is your dog typical of its breed?  Are they what you were expecting? How well do they match up to your lifestyle?  What do you wish you’d done differently in choosing your dog?  Would you get another one of the same breed? 

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

AYWYP: Week 44 – Hoopers

Hoopers or agility?

I have already talked about Hoopers as a dog activity, but I thought I would put a more personal spin on this activity once we had started training Quin. I say ‘we’ because my husband Chris is going to be responsible for this bit of training! He injured his knee a few years ago running Luna in agility and had to retire. Hoopers is great alternative for him to try.

Border Collies - hoopers
Quin ready to work with his dad

I am indebted once again to Emma from Beancroft Agility, Scentwork and Hoopers, who started teaching Hoopers last year. It’s a great way to get Quin ready for agility, without impacting his joints too early. And who knows? We may decide that Hoopers is more fun anyway!

Getting started

There are four main pieces of equipment in Hoopers: hoops, tunnels, barrels and mats. Once the dog understands the need to look for these items and run over, through or round them, they can really get going! So as with so many aspects of dog training, you start by teaching your dog that these things have ‘value’. In other words: Do this and you get a reward!

Border Collies - hoopers
where’s the cheese

It is amazing, watching dogs learn. Especially dogs of different shapes, sizes, breeds and ages. You can teach an old dog to do hoopers. They will still ‘work’ for a reward. Well you will still work for a reward, won’t you? (I’m talking about chocolate.)

Border Collies - hoopers
skipping through

You can start by ‘luring’ the dog to go through the hoops or tunnels, but it is much better for the dog to figure out what is required and then get a reward for doing it. This is called ‘shaping‘. You need to set the dog up to succeed, by standing right next to the equipment and look where you want the dog to go, rather than looking at the dog. When the dog moves, you throw the food where they are going. And again.

Progressing hoopers

Once the dog understands that they must look for the equipment, you can start to build up simple sequences. It doesn’t take long for this to happen – a few weeks – but you must be patient and consistent. Keep rewarding!

Border Collies
off we go

Hoopers courses are fast and flowing, along smooth lines, with curves rather than sharp turns. It’s about the dog moving easily and with minimal impact. It’s also about you being able to direct your dog from a distance – no running required!

Young and old dogs

Whether or not you do plan to go on to do agility, hoopers is a great way to engage a lively young dog. You need to be able to set them up and move away, so a good wait is essential. Ideally, they should be motivated to play with a toy as well, so that you have plenty of ways to reward. It is exciting! It is a useful way to build fitness and control whilst moving at speed.

Border Collies
starting slowly

For older dogs, it’s a great way to ease them into retirement from agility. Up till now, people retiring old dogs from fully competing to entering an ‘Allsorts’ class. This still involves jumping though, albeit at a lower height. Hoopers uses many of the skills learnt in agility, but without the twists and turns, or the impact. And if you only have an older dog, it’s not really worth going to an agility show for a couple of classes, with no grades, or rewards for places.

Left and right

One of the skills you do need to teach a dog for hoopers (and agility) is left and right. Did you know that dogs know left and right? In order to teach it, I find it helpful to start by telling them ‘left’ or ‘right’ as they come to a turning on a walk. If it’s a route they know and you give the command as they turn, they begin to associate the two things together.

Border Collies - hoopers
which way now

Amazingly, if you practise this often enough, when you shout ‘left’ or ‘right’ your dog will then turn in that direction. You’d better just hope you shouted the correct word! Having a good range of commands will help you work your dog from a distance, which is one of the key aims of this activity. This in turn will really help you when you make the switch to agility. Of course your old agility dog will ace this aspect of hoopers!

Hoopers competitions

Canine Hoopers UK do run competitions, but as the sport has only being going for a few years, these are not widely available. The nice thing about these competitions though is that, unlike in agility, they are quiet affairs, with a great deal of effort being made to help young or reactive dogs.

Border Collies - hoopers
I got this

Hoopers can be seen as ‘a bit tame’, compared with some dog sports, (agility again!) But it is still fun to work with your dog to achieve a range of different goals. There are levels to work through and rewards (rosettes) for doing so. Whatever you do, it will be fun with your dog!

Weekly Focus Challenge

Do you fancy giving hoopers a go?  Why not find out if you have a trainer near you?  Local groups on social media are a great place to ask for recommendations.

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!

Remember..

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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.