Category Archives: Breed Index

PUG: Interview with an owner

Pug – Cheeky characters

I was delighted this week to have been contacted by Jackie, who was kind enough to provide some feedback on the website. She has owned Pugs over the years and has worked in welfare for PDWRA (Pug Dog Welfare & Rescue Association).

I am delighted to share with you an honest view of owning dogs of this very popular breed. Jackie owned Dorothy and Wobbie. She occasionally fostered, but many of the Pug dogs coming in had ‘issues’, and weren’t for the novice dog owner.

Jackie said she was looking for a portable companion with low energy levels once mature. She wanted dogs that were loving and friendly toward people. Unfortunately the boy, Wobbie grew to dislike people and her new puppy after he was about 4 years old. She says “I have no idea what triggered him as he seemed to ‘grow into’ his dislike of some people/situations around this age.” Sadly, this has led to her re-homing him, although she still covers the full cost of his huge healthcare bills (see below).

pug dogs

What are the health issues with a Pug?

Jackie says the health issues have been a huge minus and were far above what she had researched. She says “Being a brachycephalic breed, they have a multitude of health issues and I felt I spent the whole of their lives going to the vet. The health issues I experienced were:-

  • Skin/allergy issues – (Dorothy & Wobbie) lifelong conditions of atopic dermatitis
  • Stenotic nares (nostrils too small) Dorothy & Wobbie (surgery)
  • Larngyal collapse – Dorothy (surgery)
  • Eyes: (entropian – the eyelid folding in) Wobbie (surgery)
  • Canine keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye not producing tears)- Dorothy
  • Luxating patella (kneecap slipping in and out) – Dorothy (surgery)
  • Epilepsy (seizures)- Wobbie
  • Slipped lumbar vertebrae – slipped discs in neck – Dorothy (not treated, sadly pts aged 9.5yrs)

In between this, the Pug’s eye being very vulnerable to injury, we had multiple eye ulcers to deal with.

Suitable for a less active home?

People generally choose toy dogs because they want a dog that requires less exercise. Jackie says that Pugs are low energy like her “I’m not wanting to walk 2 hours morning and night.” Hmm, sorry Jackie, but I’m not wanting to do that either! I want a dog that will run around and have fun for an hour, then be chilled for the rest of the day. Dogs love a routine and prefer company to endless exercise. Ironically, Jackie says she walks her dogs “Twice daily; 30-45 mins per walk. Training is daily, throughout the dogs’ lives as it should be with any dog.” That’s more than I do Jackie!

Pug dogs
Pug dogs Dorothy and Wobbie

Jackie says she devised a lifestyle to fit around having a Pug. She bought her own business so that she could take the dogs to work if necessary. Happily this is the case for many people these days – let’s hope that post-Lockdown people continue to manage their lives around their dogs and don’t just dump them into rescue.

Pug temperament

Pug dogs are placid and generally sweet-natured, with a low energy level. They are described by Jackie as happy and great companions. She feels their best feature is their comical face, friendly disposition and the daily walks and companionship. Like most dogs in fact! My dogs certainly make me laugh every day.

Pug dogs
Dorothy Buggy Stroller

Pug challenges

Jackie has quite a list here: “The health issues; the greed (we didn’t have a waste paper on the ground for 10 years); the constant shedding (365 days a year).

From a training perspective, I’d say it’s physically harder to train a smaller dog as you are not on their eye level most of the time. Resisting ‘babying’ them; this alone was one of the commonest problems with behaviour issues in welfare; the dogs were humanised and mollycoddled and not given boundaries. Also when a Pug is crossed with another breed (ie terrier), you are entering into a total unknown regarding personality; again this problem was quite evident during my stint in welfare and they were often NOT low energy in this scenario.

Best Pug home?

Jackie says “Absolutely anyone who wants a low energy dog; but who also has the finances to provide for them which needs research. Their health issues are a constant bind and expensive. Insurance is also expensive, and becoming more so. I’d say insurance is absolutely vital for a Pug, as not many get through life without needing treatment (often surgery), from a vet.

An MRI scan, as I write in 2022, comes in at about £2000; that’s just to FIND OUT what the problem could be, before the expense of treatment (often lasting a lifetime) starts. My monthly insurance payments are around £50 per month Dorothy’s was nearer £100 pcm by the time she went to Rainbow Bridge.”

By way of contrast, Aura is 9 years old, with no surgery, no illnesses, no operations (apart from being spayed). She is not insured and has no vet visits apart from an annual booster.


Purchase challenges

I feel that perhaps the biggest challenge with a very ‘popular’ breed is that people jump on the breeding bandwagon and either breed carelessly, or criminally. Jackie says “I eventually learned choosing from a Kennel Club registered litter each time was no guarantee of a healthy dog.” This is because the Kennel Club will register any old dog onto the ACTIVITY REGISTER, which people often don’t realise is no guarantee of health checks or quality.

NB: Only a Kennel Club Assured Breeder of pedigree dogs will have been rigorously inspected and expected to maintain very high standards of breeding.

Jackie’s final word of advice? “Do not visit the breeder unless they health test both mum and dad; be prepared to walk away from a litter of VERY cute puppies (not as cute as mine ;p). Make sure the breeder will take the dog back if your circumstances change.” Thank you so much for your input Jackie!

Choose carefully – my thoughts

I get it, Pugs are cute. But they are not real dogs! They are artificially constructed by humans to meet ridiculous demands, at the expense of their health and quality of life. If they’re perfect, why are they dumped into rescue? Please don’t choose a Pug? Choose one of the other hundreds of healthy, happy breeds of dog available to us?


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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.

The Kennel Club – Friend Or Foe?

Why we should support the Kennel Club

I am receiving large numbers of enquiries for puppies once again, as people realise that a dog will improve their lives. It is so frustrating not to be able to offer any support to these people, because puppies are not toilet paper and cannot be made to order.

I always recommend that people contact the other Kennel Club Assured Breeders and ask to go onto their waiting lists. I’m delighted to have recently had my three-yearly inspection as part of this scheme. However, I am disappointed that there isn’t wider recognition and take-up of this scheme.

The history and purpose of the Kennel Club

It’s a very old organisation that runs dog shows. I think that is the public perception of the Kennel Club. The organisation was set up in 1873 “to have a consistent set of rules for governing the popular new activities of dog showing and field trials. It was the first national kennel club in the world.”

dog showing
dog showing

The home page of the brand new Kennel Club website now states it is:

The largest organisation in the UK devoted to dog health, welfare and training. Our objective is to ensure that dogs live healthy, happy lives with responsible owners.

What does the Kennel Club do?

It does still run dog shows. Although most people are aware of Crufts, the world’s oldest and largest dog show, they probably don’t know everything that happens there. The show really is a celebration of dogs! You can find out about different dogs, watch dogs at work, doing what they do best and enjoy the amazing relationships between dogs and owners.

I love watching the heelwork to music displays and the excitement of the flyball. Of course I love watching the agility and was very proud as a breeder to have one of my pups competing last year. It’s a great place to learn about dogs and what brings them into our lives. And there is LOTS of shopping to be done!

heelwork to music
heelwork to music

Other dog shows around the country are run by the Kennel Club. Breed shows promote the enormous range of dog breeds we have available to us in the this country. Sadly though, this is still viewed as an elite hobby and one that is regarded as subject to corruption and bias. I do feel that something based on the subjective opinions of individuals is likely to be a bit unfair. However, through writing the Breed Index, I have learnt that there are breed standards and that these are rigorously checked.

Healthier Dogs?

I do believe that the Kennel Club is a force for better dog health. There have been scandals in recent years about dogs with poor conformation winning prizes, but I think that on the whole, there is a momentum of support for healthier dogs.

health and health screening
health and health screening

The Kennel Club claims the following:

“We help improve the lives of dogs, now and in the future, through research, collaboration, resources and health schemes.”

For pedigree dog breeders, there is a wealth of information and support. As an Assured Breeder, I am not able to register my puppies as pedigree Border Collies without meeting the health testing requirements for my breed. If I want to use someone else’s dog to mate with mine, I am able to check the health records of that dog and ensure that the dogs are a good match.

Sadly, the Kennel Club is not as rigorous in recording the health of all dogs. Crossbreeds are not required to be tested. Puppies can still be ‘registered’ with the Kennel Club, but this is just a record of existence, not a certificate of proven parentage and health. I don’t know how this could be improved?

Getting a dog

Just as I have tried to support people in finding a dog, the Kennel Club have a huge amount of support and resource to help people. You can find out about different breeds, check the health of a dog’s parents, and think about what different dogs might need in terms of care. The Kennel Club provide support on finding a rescue dog and help you find an Assured Breeder.

finding a dog
finding a dog

Admin issues

Part of the problem the Kennel Club has is to do with the sheer volume of information it holds and the demand for dogs in this country. Last year was an extremely challenging one for the organisation as the massive increase in demand coincided with a transfer of records to a new IT system.

In this message to its users published yesterday, the Chief Executive Mark Beazley said “we know that many of our customers have not had the experience they deserve and expect from The Kennel Club in recent months.” The message details the progress that has been made to work through and resolve these issues. There is still work to be done, but with 40 million records to transfer, I can quite see why this is a challenge!

What do we want from the Kennel Club?

I have said that we need more responsible breeders. It would be great if this could be promoted and managed more assertively by the Kennel Club.

Personally, I would like there to be a much clearer message about dog breeding and health. It makes me sad that someone with a mixed crossbreed dog can embark on breeding with no thought for checking the health of their dog beforehand. They can produce a litter of pups and sell these to random strangers for thousands of pounds. People ‘don’t care about paperwork’ so they don’t ask to see proof of parentage and health testing.

We do now have an understanding that if we keep demanding puppies, that there are unscrupulous people who will force dogs to breed continuously, in horrible conditions – a puppy farmer. But we are not yet savvy enough to spot a dog that has been bred this way. We still buy dogs from unregulated online adverts, meaning we can easily be the victims of fraud. This affects us all, because getting a dog without proper care and due diligence can result in emotional trauma.

introduction to breeding
introduction to breeding

Equally, there is absolutely no requirement for breeders to vet prospective owners of dogs. I can breed from my dogs and send them off to complete strangers, without any checks. There is no guidance on the questions to ask prospective homes. Sadly, it is the puppies that are ‘carelessly homed’ that end up in rescue. Good breeders take their puppies back, and provide a lifetime of support to their owners.

Please let me know what you think? What do you think the Kennel Club should do better? How do you think things should change?


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Dobermann: Interview with an Owner

Dobermann – an intelligent and courageous service dog

Today we are talking to Karen, who has two Dobermanns, Finn and Rae. She says “I’ve always loved the big powerful looking guard breeds that are invariably big softies on the inside. I used to have a German Shepherd but I find the Dobermanns are more ‘family orientated’ and with their shorter hair they are cleaner and easy to groom.”

The Kennel Club describe Dobermanns as follows: a squarely built, clean outline with a wedge-shaped head and keen expression. The breed was recognised by the German Kennel Club in 1899. They are a mix of a number of other breeds; a foundation of Pinscher blood, with added Weimaraner, Greyhound, Manchester Terrier, Rottweiler and German Shepherd blood to get a combination of intelligence, speed and toughness of character.

Finn and Rae

The Dobermann’s intelligence and trainability are described by the Kennel Club as having been harnessed by the armed forces and the police and he has been used as a guard dog, a tracking dog and in various other roles. However, his loyal and obedient nature equips him to be an excellent family dog, a role in which he is equally comfortable.

A bad reputation

Karen says the hardest thing about owning a Dobermann is other people’s reaction to them! She says “I can’t tell you how many times people have crossed the road, made some comment or picked up their dogs when they see us coming, even when the dogs are on lead. This can also be a problem when booking holidays or visiting people who are not familiar with this breed.” This reputation is not completely unfounded, because as Karen says, they are sensitive, which can lead to anxieties. However, most owners of dogs like these learn to manage them perfectly well.

A dog that has been bred to guard will always be protective of its family – that is its job! Karen says they will also tell you if a bird lands in the garden, or a leaf blows. In addition, Karen says they are stubborn and strong-willed. “They need boundaries from the start – don’t give an inch or they will exploit it! They use ‘pester power’ to get what they want.”


Other problems Karen mentions are that they can be very destructive, especially when left alone. This is a problem with many dogs, both big and small, perhaps most notably with the Husky. Dobermanns are pack animals and can be very needy (they will accompany you to the bathroom). There can be same sex aggression.

Worth the effort

A Dobermann is not a ‘beginner dog’ by any means, but Karen says that once you’ve owned one they own your heart. She says “they are funny, goofy clowns, who love to entertain and be entertained! They are extremely loyal, smart dogs who want to please you. Their thought processes can be two steps ahead of yours – there’s no fooling them! Dobermanns are easy to train when you find what motivates them, whether that is food or toys.”


“They love nothing more than to snuggle on the couch with you or even on your lap if allowed…..yes even at 40kgs+ they will try to sit on you. They are the ultimate companion. Dobermanns are good with other animals and children when properly introduced. However some can have a high prey drive, so beware around small animals or excitable screaming children!”

Health and care

Dobermanns’ are easy to groom and keep clean. They have fine hair with no undercoat so feel the cold easily. Dogs with short, fine hair are more susceptible to minor cuts and injuries.

The Kennel Club require Dobermanns to be health tested, including hip scores and eye tests. They also require a DNA test for von Willebrand disease. Karen lists a number of issues common in the breed:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy is a big killer in Dobermanns (50%)
  • Hypothyroidism – one of my previous Dobies had this from quite a young age. She lived a full and happy life on medication with regular blood tests.
  • Wobblers
  • Von Willebrand disease (see above link)
  • Bloat/bowel obstruction – my current boy unfortunately had two bowel obstructions due to eating foreign bodies, which resulted in surgery both times.
  • Cancer

This seems like a long list, but in fact many dogs suffer from far more conditions than these. Please remember that a crossbreed is likely to suffer from ALL the conditions from BOTH breeds of dog? All responsible dog breeders will try to continue to improve the health of their lines. Whereas a puppy farmer only cares about taking your money (the start of a great deal of money you may pay out in health care for your dog).


The best home for a Dobermann?

Karen says “They are hard work at times so need someone with a lot of patience and kindness, who has time to spend with them and invest in their training. If you’re going to work all day leaving them alone then this breed really isn’t for you. The saying ‘you get what you put in’ is very true about Dobermanns.”

Dobermanns are big strong dogs that need space, so a garden is a must really. They need plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation, but also need ‘calm time’. Karen says “My dogs get 1-2 hours of exercise per day, mostly off lead. They love daily brain games, hide and seek, snuffle mats and filled Kongs. We mix it up a bit so they don’t get bored. In the nice weather we place objects in the garden and hide treats in them. Currently they are obsessed with a flirt pole!”


Final advice

“They live to be loved – cuddles on the couch is not optional!”

As all my breed owners have said, Karen says: Find a reputable breeder that does all the health checks including the heart. Meet the pups mother, both parents if possible. This is important with any puppy purchase. Ask lots of questions! ”

In addition, Karen recommends investing in top insurance. She says it will be worth it in the end. Karen suggests joining an online Dobermann owner group and asking them questions, maybe arrange to join them for a walk.

Remember they’re hard work but the love they give you is priceless!

Thank you Karen for such a valuable insight into your fascinating, challenging and rewarding dogs.


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Rhodesian Ridgeback: Interview with an Owner

Ridgeback – a big old softie

A natural calmness is described as the best feature of this breed by Helen, perhaps not something you would expect from looking at them? The Kennel Club describes this breed as a “Lion hunter from Southern African, who are athletic and courageous.” Ridgebacks are a large breed with a short coat, originally developed as a scent hound to track a variety of game.


The Kennel Club says that the breed takes its name from a ridge of hair growing in the reverse direction along its spine. His ancestry is linked to the ancient dogs of the Hottentots which possessed this same feature. Canine folklore suggested that a well-marked ridge was a sign of courage.

Long hikes or duvet days

When choosing the Ridgeback, Helen says “We were looking for a large, short-coated breed with a calm nature, who is independently thinking, can be taken on hour long hikes, but is equally as happy having a duvet day – initially, we whittled it down to a few gun dog breeds and the Rhodesian Ridgeback. What swung it for us is spending time with a few breeders and their dogs. We were bowled over by their calm, (not needy) nature, so Ridgebacks was the breed for us and we now live with three of them.”

Helen says “Give a Ridgeback what they need and you have the most loyal and loving partner in crime, who you can take anywhere!”

Generally healthy

The Ridgeback is a largely healthy breed. Most common issues such as hip dysplasia are quite rare, despite them being in the large breed category. They can suffer with Dermoid Sinus, which is where a hair grows inwards and can cause excruciating pain. This is however diagnosed when they are pups and is not something that develops later in life. It will require an operation, which good breeders will do before they go to their forever homes.

Recent studies have shown that intact male Ridgebacks are more susceptible to developing prostate cancer later in life.


A slight aloofness

The Ridgeback is described by Helen as being ‘an independent thinker’. She feels that where things might go wrong is when people try to be their boss, or micro-manage them. Helen says “He does very much make his own mind up, based on what’s in it for him, so Positive Reinforcement teaching is an absolute must for this breed!

They are naturally suspicious of strangers and can be a bit aloof, so continuous socialisation and habituation is also an absolute must.

Another aspect to be aware of is their prey drive. Helen says “Ridgebacks are hounds, so they will leave their owners behind in the quest of chasing rabbits, squirrels etc. They live for the chase though, so once they have scratched that itch, many are happy to return to their owners afterwards, IF the return has been reinforced sufficiently!”


Luckily Helen has never had any issues because “we have always worked with what they gave us and reinforced their good natural choices, which is always my number one advice for any new Ridgeback owner.”   

Sofa sleepers

The Ridgeback is very versatile, so they can easily adapt to busy family life or with a single person, in a house or even a flat. However, Helen says “People must have the time to give them good quality off-lead exercise. You must not be precious over your soft furnishings because Ridgebacks are not floor dogs, they need their warmth and comfort!”

Helen recommends having more than one Ridgeback, as they are destined for pack living. I would NOT recommend getting more than one puppy from a litter though – that is asking for trouble! Here’s the link to my thoughts on this issue.

Rain or shine?

Helen is quite clear that Ridgebacks do NOT like rain! She says “Unless it rains, we take our dogs out twice daily in the summer and once daily in the winter. As long as they get to have a good off-lead run through the woods or across the fields, they are more than happy stopping in for the rest of the day, wrapped up in a duvet!”


Best advice for new owners

People who are happy with the breed of dog they have chosen ALL say this: “We were lucky that we have chosen the perfect breed for us but only because we did our homework, so always DO YOUR RESEARCH and spend some time with people who have lived with the breed for a long time. Good, responsible breeders will happily answer any questions and let you join them on walks, so you can observe them in real life, not just on paper.”

Thanks Helen, for a really honest and clear description of this distinctive breed.


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Tollers: Interview with an Owner

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever – big name, big character?

Marlene wanted an active dog who would fit in with holidays and hiking. She says Ludo is that and much, much more.  I never thought I could ever love a dog as much as this.  He makes me laugh every day.” How lovely is that!


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, known as a Toller, is described by the Kennel Club as a powerful, handsome, web-footed swimmer from Canada. They are one of the Retrievers, within the Gundog group, but are quite different in appearance to Labradors, being more like a Border Collie in size and coat. Their character and temperament is as ‘retriever’ as you could hope for and the ‘buff’ or ‘red’ colouring is very distinctive.


Tollers are relatively new to the UK, having been brought over from Canada in 1988. The Kennel Club describes Tollers as follows “His method of work may appear strange to many; his task is to lure wildfowl to within range of the guns. It is reputed that he uses his vigorous tail action to achieve this. He lives up to his name as a good retriever, especially from water, where his webbed feet, a breed feature, enable him to swim powerfully.

“The Toller has been selected over the generations for his intelligence and trainability. As a result he makes an ideal and enthusiastic family companion for the active household, performing well in a variety of activities such as agility, flyball, tracking and obedience.

Getting ready for the challenge

Ludo was Marlene’s first dog, so she read up on the breed, talking to breeders and vets. She also met a few at Crufts, so she was somewhat prepared.


The best thing about Ludo is that he is a loving, gentle boy who just wants to play but loves the praise he gets from working with me too.  He understands things very quickly and is extremely perceptive which may or may not be just a breed thing, as I know of a lot of other clever dogs too. 

“Because he is quite clever, he can also be opportunistic so prepare yourself to be in charge.  (I taught 5 year olds in my old life so I had great training for being consistent and in charge.)  As a breed, I have heard some can be aloof but most Tollers I know will choose their time and people for showing affection.

The Toller scream

Marlene says that Tollers have a famous ‘scream’ when they get excited, which can put people off the breed. She finds it quite funny to hear! She says Ludo will only resort to this if he thinks someone is on the property that shouldn’t be there. Marlene is training him to calm down with hand gestures and rewards.


Health issues?

Like other retrievers, they need to have their hips scored and low scores are desirable, to reduce the risk of dysplasia. They also require eye tests, similar to those needed for Border Collies.

Marlene says there she has had no experiences with health issues. She recommends talking to the breeder to check health records and details of issues. As Marlene says “Good breeders will avail their track records and will be very honest.

Exercise and training needs

As with any dog, it is essential to make sure that they have the opportunity to get out and about every day. Marlene says We walk every day but the walks vary in length and purpose.  Some walks are feral rambles – I love these! Some walks include safety training, manners, basic skills, tricks, play.  Some walks are led by my dog walker who offers pack walks.  She carefully handpicks about 3-4 dogs who work well together, so that they learn manners and responding to her calls, not just mine.”


Tollers are not suitable for inactive homes. You will need to be prepared to get out and about. Like Springer Spaniels, they love to sniff and search and should not be walked on lead. Tollers will suit an active family or people who can spend a lot of time with them.

Marlene retired to make space in her life for Ludo. She says “I have a very active lifestyle i.e. I am a rower so fitness is essential. Long off-walk rambles and short on-lead walks are part of our routine.  I see  each activity as a learning opportunity for Ludo and me.

Thank you Marlene for telling us about your gorgeous boy.


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5 Myths about Border Collies

Border Collies are one of the most popular breeds of dog in the UK. Yet they are often misunderstood and can have a bad reputation. People think that Border Collies are nervous, obsessive and snappy – that’s not a myth, they can be like that! But there is more to the breed than this. Hopefully, the ‘farm collie’ that you had as a child is NOT the same as the responsibly bred Border Collie you buy from an KC Assured Breeder.

Let’s look in more detail at a few of the biggest myths around the breed:

1. Border Collies are black and white

A ‘typical’ Border Collie?

Let’s start with the physical attributes – do we think all Border Collies look like Bonnie (above)? According to the Kennel Club’s breed standard, there are quite a few variables. For example, “the nose should be black, except in brown or chocolate colour when it may be brown. In blues the nose should be slate colour.” And the eyes should be “brown in colour, except in merles, where one or both or part of one or both may be blue.” It goes on to describe variability in size, in the set of the ears, in the length of coat and so on.

As for colours, what a choice we have! I have written about this in more detail elsewhere, but Border Collies come in all sorts of colours!

2. Easy to train

I have to talk about this one next. Everyone knows that Border Collies are extremely intelligent, right? So that must mean they are easy to train, right? Wrong. Well, actually it is true, but they don’t train themselves! Oh no wait, that’s not true either, they DO train themselves, and that’s why you have to watch them carefully. They will also train YOU!

ball games

Pictured here we can see Aura, making me throw the ball for her. She does love her ball! Aura will demand that I throw it, again and again – she’s relentless! However, it is Sunny who has always been able to persuade anyone and everyone to throw a ball for her.

Border Collies want to learn, to do, to keep busy. Many people struggle to get them to stop and settle and if they are poorly managed they can become neurotic and obsessive. They need owners who can keep them focused and doing what is required. And no more.

3. Need lots of exercise

border collies
Constantly on the go

Border Collies are designed to work. They should ‘normally’ be out on the hills, with the shepherd, moving the sheep from one place to another. This might take a long time and involve being on the go for hours on end. But they don’t do this all day every day. I often think the breed is one of the closest to wild dogs (if you get a Heinz 57 dog it will often look a bit like a collie). This means they are built for stamina and speed, stealth and strength.

However, the shepherd also needs them to be able to cope with doing nothing much, for long periods as well. Fortunately for us, because not many people these days require a dog to be on the go all day long.

So yes, Border Collies, can exercise all day. Do they need to? No. I always tell my puppy owners “You can exercise your Border Collie for 3 hours a day or more. All you will get is a fit dog! The more you do with them, the more they will need you to do. You will NOT succeed in tiring them out.” Be warned!

4. Good with children

A well-bred, well raised Border Collie should be a super family pet. But they are certainly not the ‘obvious’ breed when it comes to spending time with children. Their tendency to herd can make them nippy. Our childhood collies used to try desperately to round us up if we were out on a walk, or running around a field. They would nip at our heels as we went to leave the house.

Border Collie puppies
Good with children?

My second Border Collie, Buzz, loved being part of our family. But he tended to guard and was a bit ‘sharp’ if things got a bit too exciting. I feel that Border Collies can easily become anxious if children are noisy, or lively. They do not like being chased, or grabbed. Other breeds, particularly Labradors, are far more tolerant, although all dogs should be managed sensibly around children.

5. Make great pets

border collie myths
They certainly know how to pose!

Yes they do. If they are well-bred, well-trained and well cared for, they make absolutely fantastic pets. Find a responsible breeder, go to training classes, practise and praise. Then enjoy!

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Labrador: Interview with an owner

Labrador – the perfect dog for beginners?

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.


The Labrador (Lab) comes in three main types – yellow, 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.

Labrador 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.


Interestingly, 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 hour’s 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.”

Hair, 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 advice

“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!


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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.

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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.”


Of 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.


Sarah’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.


They 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, although as they are prone to forming urate stones they need a low purine diet. 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.


Lola 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.


Sarah’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!


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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 Collie

I 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 had a page on Border Collie Breed Information when I started this website, which talked about what makes them so special, but I thought I would now 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 Collie

Ounce 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 Collie


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