Category Archives: Diary of a Dog Breeder

Top tips on the best way to contact a breeder

Making contact: how to get in touch with a dog breeder

We generally think we know how to apply for a job, don’t we?  We reflect on our skills and aspirations and craft these into a CV.  We then put together a carefully worded application form, which is relevant to the job for which we are applying.  I was talking about this process with my son this week and we were agreeing that it is a challenging and time-consuming process.

contactI have worked in HR for many years and have seen many variations in the quality of applications.  You can tell straight away whether someone is committed to the job, or if they have just sent out a generic ‘give us a job, any job’ application.

First contact

You may have already read some of my posts about the challenges of being a Responsible Breeder.  What I haven’t really talked about so much is the challenge of finding suitable homes for the puppies.

Of course a Puppy Farmer doesn’t really care who has his puppies – he’s just breeding dogs to make money.  They are a commodity, nothing more.

But if you care about the dog you are bringing into your home, wouldn’t you want to find the right one for you?  Wouldn’t you want to ‘apply’ for a dog from someone who equally cares about who you are?

contactHow would you feel if you received a message like this?

“Hi, I saw that you breed border collies, I wondered if you had a litter? Thanks”

What would you say?  I honestly try to reply to every enquiry I receive, but really, what can I say to this person, whoever they are?  No.  Why should I say anything else?  Even if I did have a litter, why would I bother to reply to this message?

Sell yourself

When you contact a breeder, you need to let them know who you are.  At the very least, you might tell them your name!  But actually, if you really want a puppy, you need to sell yourself to the breeders.  By contrast with the message I received, I also had a phone call from someone.  He was keen to tell me all about himself, his family and his previous dog.  I told him that I wasn’t going to have a litter for a while, but he was keen to wait for the right dog, from the right breeder.  He had already done some research and asked some great questions.  (He’s got through to the next round :))

What should you say?

Here my list of a few points that you might say to a breeder, just by way of introduction:

  • Your name, where you live, your circumstances – do you work full time?  Who lives with you?  Do you have children?
  • Your current and previous dog ownership
  • What you are looking for in a dog?
  • When you want to have a dog – this year or next, not too specific
  • What you would like to do with your dog

contactWhat should you NOT say?

Equally, there are a few ‘no-nos’ when you make contact with a breeder:

  • I want a puppy now, or on a specific date (it’s not an exact science!)
  • Specifying colour or markings – I want a black one
  • Asking for unusual characteristics – I want one with blue eyes
  • Saying you have a 2 year-old child (too young, really)
  • Wanting a puppy before your old dog dies.  Old dogs don’t take well to puppies.

Breeders talk to each other

Breeding dogs responsibly is quite a specialist ‘job’.  There are not that many Assured Breeders around and we know each other!  This is partly because we need to find non-related dogs to breed with and partly because we give each other support and advice.

This means that we help each other out when we have litters, sending along good homes once we have found homes for our pups.  We also tell each other if someone seems unsuitable!  So be warned, even if you think you are making a casual enquiry, you might be jeopardising your chances with a number of breeders.

contactA final thought

“Dogs owned by people who spent more than an hour researching where to buy them from are likely to live twice as long as those who spent under 20 minutes choosing a puppy, with mean mortality ages of 8.8 and 4.3 respectively.” (Taken from the KC report ‘Collaboration is the Key – the Way Forward for Breeding Regulations’).  As a result of buying from puppy farms, people claim to have suffered emotional and financial hardship, the KC report.

Ask for help?

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

If you are a breeder, you can talk to me about how I vet my puppy owners, together with advice on the information I provide to my puppy homes. CONTACT ME for more information?

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

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?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

And if you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos and lots more information.

Would you recommend your dog?

What makes your dog right for you and would you recommend it to someone else?

I’ve been mulling over what makes people choose a particular breed of dog and how to recommend the right kind of dog to the right people.  Last week I was chatting to two people; one had a Husky and the other had two King Charles spaniels.  We were remarking on how different our breeds were and laughing about their distinctive characteristics.  So this has started me thinking that I should interview owners of different breeds about what they like, or don’t like about their own dog(s).

recommend I have already written about having a Practice Dog to stay and in there I listed the ‘challenges’ you face in having a Border Collie; their obsessions, their nervousness and their endless energy to name but three.  But they are also amazing, exciting and incredibly loving dogs to own – I certainly recommend them, to the right person.  Because I am a breeder of Border Collies I also have a page about what makes them so special – Border Collie Breed Information.

Border Collies are special

Here is an example of why I love collies.  When having an agility lesson last week, our trainer was demonstrating a game to us, using two toys, where different commands and movement indicated which toy the dog should go to.  It took my girls two minutes to get the hang of the game and understand what was required.  Try doing that with your dog and see how long it takes?

You can look up breed information on the Kennel Club website of course.  The Pets4homes website has pages on many breeds, including crossbreeds.   But are these sources telling you what it is actually like to live with a dog like this?

recommendNew Dog Breeds Blog

That is why I am launching my new Dog Breeds blog, with personal accounts from my friends about life with their dogs.  This will give you great advice and recommendations on the different breeds.

ACTION REQUIRED!

Please CONTACT ME if you have a breed of dog that is not a Border Collie?  I would like to talk to you about what it is like to own that breed.

I have also done a survey to ask people about other breeds of dog.  This makes interesting reading – if you want to know more, please go the survey results?

Thanks for your help!

recommendAsk for help?

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

If you are a breeder, you can talk to me about how I vet my puppy owners, together with advice on the information I provide to my puppy homes. CONTACT ME for more information?

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

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?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Off lead – How and when to achieve freedom for your dog

Going off lead: be brave!

Talking to a friend  recently who has a nervous, rescue girl and I found myself saying “you could let her off lead you know.  She’s not going to go anywhere, you’re her mum”.  How can I be sure?  What if she sees a squirrel?  What if she chases a deer?  Maybe she’ll get scared!  It’s too difficult 🙁

I have to admit, I’m pretty smug and annoying with my girls.  They are off lead for about 98% of our walks and I am completely confident in their obedience.  They come back, they wait when told, they don’t run into the road, blah blah blah.  I’m so lucky.  But then, I do have Border Collies, so it’s really easy.  Hmm…

off lead dogStart immediately

When I took Ounce out for her very first walk  I let her off the lead.  Scary.  Of course I had already practised her recall many times at home, but even so, it was daunting.

Training the puppy has not been without its moments!  Most memorable was the time when a man came past us, running flat out.  Ounce immediately went haring after him, round the corner in a flash!  Trying desperately not to panic, I stood and called her ‘positively’, (ie not yelling my head off) and just moments later she came tearing back, happy as Larry.

I also remember when my friend got her first puppy from me and I went to visit her.  I guess Nell and Luna were about 4 months old.  We went off for a walk and I was surprised that Nell was on lead.  “Let her off” I urged.  Thankfully she did and never looked back.

Finally, here is a video of when I looked after Charlie Brown, from Aura’s litter.  He is also going out for one of his first walks.  And he’s not even mine!

Why go off lead?

I wrote about this in one of my first ever posts: why go off lead It’s interesting to think how far I have come since I wrote that post; I know so much more about other dogs and how trainable (or not) they might be.  So let’s recap.

Reasons for going off lead

  1. more stimulating for the dog
  2. better exercise – your dog will typically travel 3 or 4 times as far as you do, if they are off lead
  3. safer – your dog can move away from anything they are not happy about

This last point is the key for me and something I often talk about.   When your dog is on lead they are able to pick up exactly how you are feeling. This is partly from your smell and partly from the lead itself.  Any anxiety you have transmits directly down the lead to the dog.  How ironic that the worry you have about your dog can cause the dog to worry about you!

Reasons to keep/have your dog on lead

  1. control near danger – mainly roads.  Dogs do absolutely understand the difference between roads and pavements and many dogs happily walk calmly beside you along a road.  BUT there are always squirrels, or moments when their focus shifts.  Cars are big, dangerous objects, so it’s not worth the risk, on the whole.

That’s it.  I honestly can’t think of anything else.  Of course dogs do run off after rabbits etc.  Any dog with a strong prey drive will do this and it is a real challenge waiting for them to come back.  I appreciate that they may be gone for hours and may go a long way.  I don’t know how patient I would be with a dog like this.  But I do know that when I go up to the woods I see many Spaniels and Labradors, all off lead, so it must be possible to manage this?  Let me know if you disagree?

65ft 20M long Lead. 25mm – 1″ Wide. Very Strong (Purple)

The other main reason dogs are kept on lead is because they ‘don’t like other dogs’.   When they are on lead they have nowhere to go, so of course they won’t want another dog coming into their face.  When they are off lead, they will move away.  They may turn round and tell the other dog to go away, but if they can move, that’s what they will do.

Go on – you can do it!

Practice, practice, practice.  Use a long lead at first, make sure your dogs know their name, then go for it!  Please?

Ask for help?

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

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

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?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Bringing in a second dog – what is the right age gap for this?

When should you get a second dog?

A few months ago I talked about the journey to multiple dogs – How many dogs should you have? but I think it is useful to focus again on the timing of getting a second dog, following a couple of enquiries I have had this week.  Two lovely people have contacted me saying that they have a dog aged 13/14 and are thinking about getting a puppy.  The first person had only ever had one dog and was now considering a second.  This was my reply. 

Bringing in a second dog

It’s such a challenge isn’t it, knowing when is the right time to get another dog.  I look at Sunny, my eldest, who is nearly 12 – she did a couple of agility runs at the weekend (ones designed for old dogs I hasten to add!) but she skipped round so happily.  However, she does run around with the other girls, every day, so is fit as a flea.  I got her when Buzz was 8 and he was thrilled to have a companion; it gave him a new lease of life, definitely.

My previous girl, Rue, was 11 when I got Buzz as a pup and she was less than impressed.  She never interacted with him and just ignored him in the main.  I do know other people whose older dogs regularly ‘have a go’ at their younger ones.  People I know have to keep old and young dogs apart, or muzzled; it can be as bad as that.

“I think what I’m trying to say, in the nicest possible way, is that it’s too late for you and your old girl, in my opinion.  A rescue will come with its own issues, in my experience, which may well upset your girl considerably.  A puppy is just annoying!  If she already has arthritis she won’t want to be bounced on and won’t be up for a game of chase, for example.  You will have two dogs with very different needs and will be really torn with how to manage them.

“I think it is likely you will be wanting to get a puppy in a few years’ time.  Sorry not to be more enthusiastic, I am just thinking of your old girl and what is best for her.”

When you have had two dogs

The second enquiry was from someone who had lost one of her two dogs a few months ago and wanted to get a replacement of him.  When two dogs have grown up together and always had each other it can be upsetting for the remaining dog to be alone.  They are used to the greater activity level of being together and the companionship of each other.

Once again, I would exercise caution.  I think that despite the loss of their companion, an older dog would rather remain on their own with their family than have to cope with a new dog.   Dogs are like people; they are adaptable.  And if the owner is older, then the pace of life is generally slower all round, which suits the dog far better.

The ideal age?

What is the right age to introduce a second dog?  I was always a great believer in small age gaps, so that there is a closer bond and more playtime.  My brothers and I are close in age and there is only 18 months between my sons.

As is so often the case, this theory has not been borne out.  There are three and a half to four years between Sunny and Luna, Luna and Busy, and Busy and Ounce.  Aura is the ‘odd one out’ as she is between Luna and Busy.  My original plan had been to keep a girl from Luna’s second or third litter, but the best laid plans and all that!

Aura is a special girl, but she is demanding!  She was extremely jealous of Busy when I kept her and still struggles to get the attention she thinks she deserves.  My conclusion is that 18 months to 2 years is too small a gap.

Four years now seems about right.  I have lots of friends with various dogs and they seem to agree, on the whole.

second dogOther alternatives to a second dog

There are a couple of alternatives is you want another dog but it’s not quite the right time.  One is to put your dog into doggy day care, or simply to get a dog walker.  That way, they will have regular, prolonged interaction with other dogs.

The second is to use a service like Borrow My Doggy which allows you to lend your dog out to other families, or have other people’s dogs to stay with you.

Finally, I just want to give a quick mention here to The Cinnamon Trust who do amazing work to support the elderly with their pets.

Remember..

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Part of this service is that I will provide a form for you to fill in.  This acts like a CV, enabling you to demonstrate who you are clearly to other breeders.

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

Buying a puppy? Want it now? Too bad

Buying a puppy requires patience and care

I want a puppy and I want it NOW!  I am reminded of Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  In today’s consumer society, we are accustomed to being able to buy something immediately.  Especially with online purchases.  I have recently signed up to that horrible company’s ‘Top’ service, where something comes before you’ve ordered it.  This makes it harder than ever to wait when buying something so meaningful.

buying a puppyBuying a sofa

Buying a puppy is not a quick job, on the whole.  You need to think of it as being a cross between buying a sofa and getting a job.  If you are buying a sofa, you think about what you like.  You reflect on what will go with your home and your lifestyle.  Perhaps you try out a few first, or talk to friends about their sofas and what works for them.

Then you go to the sofa shop.  You decide what you want to pay and narrow down your choices.  If there is a salesperson available, you listen to their advice and take note of their suggestions.  You might want a particular version of the sofa.  So you are prepared to wait.  Your order will take 9 weeks, you are told.  That’s fine you say.

That’s how long it takes to make a puppy.  Not too long to wait really, is it?  Delivery takes a bit longer, as your puppy needs to be ready for you, so allow another 8 weeks.  If you can be patient, you should get just what you are looking for.  Made to order, so to speak.

puppy buyingMaking a job application

When you apply for a job, you start by looking at what’s available.  Reading through the adverts and matching it to your requirements.  You might have a list of criteria drawn up:

  • earn lots of money
  • good additional benefits
  • reasonable hours
  • friendly colleagues

What would a list look like for your puppy?

  • not too big (but big enough to cuddle)
  • not too hairy (dogs ARE hairy, all the better to snuggle into)
  • won’t chew the house (it will!)
  • will be obedient (if you train it, it will be)

Next, you write an application.  Here’s one I received yesterday:

“I am writing to enquire wether you have any  puppies to sell. I am looking for a KC registered Border Collie, health checked, wormed, vaccinated and, of course, micro-chipped.”

Now tell me honestly, would you give that person the job?  Would you think, yes, I would like that person to have one of my puppies?  I’m pleased they want it to be registered, health checked etc, but who are they?

Just as a person recruiting for a job receives hundreds of applicants, a responsible breeder receives hundreds of enquiries for puppies.  I could sell a few hundred pups a year, if I wanted to.  Unfortunately, I only produce half a dozen a year.  So the homes I send them to must be super special.

Vetting puppy homes

I vividly remember going to buy Sunny – the only dog I have bought (see My life in dogs) and being vetted by her breeder.  I had assumed that because I already had a couple of collies and the breeder was a friend of a friend, that I would obviously be getting what I wanted.  Not a bit of it!  I was judged on how I handled the pups and talked about my dogs.  I had decided I wanted to do agility and breed from her and that had to be considered.

Never assume, because that makes an ASS out of U and ME.  This applies to buying a puppy as much as anywhere else.  You are not entitled to a puppy, just because you have the money.

buying a puppyYou get what you pay for

Finally, be aware that when buying a puppy, just at with any other purchase, you get what you pay for.  Something that is cheap and where you have to make no effort to get it will probably not have been produced with much love or care.  Unfortunately that might mean a life of pain for you and your dog, both figuratively and literally.

Remember..

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Part of this service is that I will provide a form for you to fill in.  This acts like a CV, enabling you to demonstrate who you are clearly to other breeders.

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

Health News Update – working towards healthier dogs

Health in dog breeding – how the Kennel Club is helping our dogs

“Did you know that in 2017, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust gave over £450,000 to aid scientific research? Or that Mate Select, a free online Kennel Club health resource for breeders, was used approximately 1.8 million times? Or that the Kennel Club emailed around 140,000 dog owners and breeders to promote 40 different independent health surveys, research projects or health clinics? “

[Source: KC Newsletter March 2018]

These are just a few of the ways in which the Kennel Club strives to make a difference to dog health.  To find out what the Kennel Club did in 2017 to help improve canine health, have a look at the KC Dog Health Brochure.

health puppy

Why is the health of our dogs important?

If you have never had a child or pet suffer an illness or injury, lucky you!  As soon as you go through the agonising experience of watching someone you love, be it child or animal, in pain, you just want to take that away.  You hate to see them suffering and want to do anything to restore them to full health.

Any steps that can be taken to improve the health of our beloved pets is therefore worthwhile.  I believe that it is better to start with a healthy animal than to try and nurture something that is sick to start with.  Bad health might be due to a poor start in life from irresponsible breeding (puppy farming) or from genetic breed health issues.

Canine Health Schemes – helping you to improve dog health and welfare

Canine Health Schemes (CHS) works with the Kennel Club and British Veterinary Association to support breeders in improving dog health and welfare by enabling you to make informed decisions with regard to your breeding programmes. The four schemes run by CHS, which are open to all breeders, are the Hip Dysplasia Scheme, Elbow Dysplasia Scheme, Eye Disease Scheme and the Chiari Malformation/ Syringomyelia Scheme.

To find out more and to learn how to screen your dogs, have a look at the Canine Health Schemes.

health test

Hip dysplasia

I thought is would be useful for you to see a copy of Aura’s hip score certificate.  She was x-rayed to see if her hips were healthy, for which she needed to be sedated.  These are sent to a panel of veterinary experts for review. They examine the images for health defects, which highlight the likelihood of future problems.   They mark each defect on both sides.  The lower the score therefore, the better the health of the dog’s hips.

Breeds scores are recorded and over time and the figures give a clear picture of the health of the hips of different breeds.  You can then see whether you are producing dogs with at least as good as average hips.  The overall aim is to reduce the breed average, the probability of hip dysplasia and the likely future suffering of the dogs.

Breed_Specific_Statistics_2012 can be looked at and make for interesting reading.  For example:

  • Border Collies currently have an average hip score of 13,  taken from 7, 648 dogs.
  • Labradors have an average of 14, taken from a sample of 74, 094 dogs.
  • Bulldogs have an average of 44, taken from a sample of 26 dogs.

Why is the sample of Labradors so large?  We know that they are very likely to suffer from hip dysplasia, so breeders are working hard to remove this from the breed.  Why is the sample of Bulldogs so small?  In 2012 (when the figures were published) the breed was declining.  This was due in part to its poor health, short lifespan and inability to give birth naturally.  You don’t need to x-ray a bulldog’s hips to know that it can’t move freely.  🙁

Remember..

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Or if you want to breed, read this Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

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

How to toilet train your puppy

Toilet training: how quickly can you stop the mess?

I am tempted to start by saying ‘it’s a dog, it comes with mess. Permanently.’  Of course it’s not that bad.  However if you have carpet downstairs in your house, you might want to re-think getting a dog, or keeping your carpet.

Let’s start with the basics – how soon does a puppy toilet purposefully?  Amazingly, this happens within a few weeks of birth.  As I have continued to have litters of pups, I have become astonished with how soon they move in order to toilet.  At birth, their mother licks them clean, which stimulates them to toilet.  This ensures that the bed stays pretty clean, although there will still be accidents.

puppy toilet trainingWhen they are born, puppies are not able to see, hear or walk properly.  That doesn’t stop them from wriggling around and they can travel quite a distance if you forget to put the side of the whelping box back on!  After just a few days, I started to realise that if they had vet bed to sleep on and then newspaper to crawl onto, they would crawl onto the paper and wee, then crawl back onto the bed.  Pretty impressive huh?

Once they are around three weeks old, they start to be introduced to some solid food. Their eyes are open, they are up on their feet and beginning to interact with each other and their mum.

Making choices

As puppies become more mobile, they start to be able to make choices about where they go to the toilet.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will make those choices.  Sometimes they are too busy, or too tired to be able to stop and go and find a ‘suitable’ place to go.  More often than not, they aren’t that bothered about where they go, as long as it isn’t in their bed.  NB: if they have vet bed to sleep on, they won’t even notice if they have had an accident, as it is super absorbent and comfortable.

While the puppies are with me, up to the age of 8 weeks, I try to make sure that they always have newspaper to toilet on and that this is changed frequently.  I also try to give them plenty of space to run around and the opportunity to spend time outside. They will have access to grass as early as possible, weather depending.  It is remarkable how soon they obviously prefer to toilet on grass.

puppy toilet trainingHaving control

Choosing to go outside is quite different from being able to wait until a suitable place is available.  Bladder and bowel control take longer to develop and this varies from breed to breed.  It is unrealistic to expect an 8 week-old puppy to wait any length of time to go to the toilet, or to know where you would prefer them to go.  It takes a good few weeks to develop these things and the success of this depends on how hard you are prepared to work.

Top tips for toilet training

  • Establish a routine – the more consistent you are with your dog, the more likely you are to prevent accidents.  If you feed them at the same time and then take them outside, you should be successful.
  • Provide frequent opportunities – puppies have small bladders!  You will need to encourage them to go to the toilet around every hour during the day. They will also usually need to be taken outside first thing in the morning, last thing at night, after each meal, waking from a nap, and after any exercise, play or excitement.  Often, in other words!
  • Get up at night – by the time they are around 10 weeks old, Border Collie puppies generally go through the night without accidents.  However before this they either need to have space and paper to toilet on or you need to get up and take them out.
  • Reward good behaviour – as with all areas of dog training, please reward the behaviour you are looking for?  With toileting, this means waiting till the dog starts to go, then saying ‘yes’ in a really positive way.  Then give the dog a treat.  Once you have this established, try saying ‘wee, wee’ or ‘go toilet’ or whatever you fancy saying, as the dog starts to go.  This then becomes a prompt for the behaviour. which is incredibly useful on a long car journey or if you are going out, as you can prompt the dog to toilet.
  • Study their behaviour – dogs usually show signs of wanting to go to the toilet, even if they don’t come over to you and say ‘can I go outside please?’  If you pay attention to your dog, you will start to realise when they need to go.  They will become restless and fidgety, may whine or try and come up for a cuddle.
  • Do NOT punish – puppies will always do their best to please you; they are not being naughty or lazy, so please don’t tell them off if they have an accident, especially if they wee because they are pleased to see you.
puppy toilet training
helping in the garden

You might want to give them free access to the garden.  However, this makes it harder for them once that is removed.  It also allows them to do plenty of ‘gardening’ which you might regret!

Just a note about toilet training using a gravel tray, or similar.  I have not tried this but some people swear by it, saying their pups never have accidents.  This is similar to a cat’s litter tray.   Be aware that rugs and carpets make great places to toilet, as they resemble grass.  Ammonia-based cleaning fluids also smell like urine, so will not stop dogs from going in that spot again.

Patience pays off

Overall, it takes time, but it will happen. The more effort you put in, the more quickly and effectively your puppy will learn.

Remember..

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Or if you want to breed, read this Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

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

Dog Breeding – Conformity vs Individualism

Opinion piece: What do you want your dog to look like?

Jeremy Vine does a series of pieces entitled ‘What makes us human?‘ on Radio 2 and this is a picture that sums up a viewpoint I have realised over the past few days in relation to this question.  It is similar to a picture I saw on social media with a man in camouflage trousers and a neon top with the caption “do ye wanna be seen o’ no?” (Scottish) Lol.  Here I am, with my camouflage jacket and my bright purple hair.

What’s the point I am making?  We want to be the same as everyone else. We are desperate to conform, to fit in, to be seen as ‘normal’, to go unnoticed.  AND we are desperate to be different, to stand out, to be memorable.  In order to achieve these two opposing and confrontational goals, we will buy the latest fashion, follow the trends, look carefully at what others are doing and copy it.  There are many entertaining social experiments about people going along with a crowd, performing in increasingly bizarre ways, just to do the same as everyone else.

Equally, there is a constant battle to be just a little bit different, to be memorable and not the same as everyone else.  We give children ridiculous names, or spell their names in ridiculous ways.  We get tattoos, with our own versions of patterns or pictures making us look a bit different from other people (while following the fashion for body art).  We dye our hair.

How does this relate to dogs?

I watched the Catherine Tate programme Saving the British Bulldog the other night (watch it, if you haven’t already, it’s really good).  Catherine presents a really clear, balanced picture of what has happened to the bulldog breed and why this has taken place.  In my view, this represents  this same dichotomy between conforming and being different.

The Kennel Club have a breed standard for the British Bulldog. It says right at the outset:

“A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential.

“Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

There it is, in black and white.  So what’s going on?  Breeders are breeding for health and to produce the best examples of the breed, conforming to the ‘standard’ set.  BUT people don’t want all dogs to look the same.  They want them to look different. People want a dog, but they want it to look like a baby.

As the programme demonstrates, this make the dog unhealthy, because it becomes deformed.  This is NOT the fault of the Kennel Club, nor the breeders, but the buying public, who are trying to find a particular ‘look’, no matter what that costs.

Health comes first

Surely we would not deliberately buy something that was unhealthy, would we?  We wouldn’t choose to have an unhealthy child, would we?  So why would we choose to have a dog with inherent health problems?

crufts best in show 2018If we only cared about dog health, we would all have dogs that are shaped like dogs.  A bit like this year’s Crufts Best in Show, Tease the Whippet, (Collooney Tartan Tease). The Kennel Club says that the Whippet was originally bred for rabbit coursing, with gambling on racing in the North of England.  It goes on to say:

“Although Whippet racing continues on a very minor scale, the breed is now hugely popular in the show ring where its elegant lines and smooth daisycutting action has won many admirers. As a family companion, the Whippet is gentle and affectionate and enjoys the comforts of domestic life.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  But we don’t all want Whippets, do we?  We want something different.

The same, but different

This is all just an excuse to talk about my puppy, Ounce.  I LOVE that she is different – pretty unique in fact.  She is a lilac and white Border Collie, which is a colour that is found in only around 1% of the breed.  In addition, she has blue eyes, which is even rarer.  Blue eyes are definitely not part of the breed standard.

At the same time, Ounce conforms to the ‘show type’ of Border Collie, because she is from those lines.  So she is more ‘stocky’ than a farm-bred, working sheepdog type Border Collie.  She has the pedigree Border Collie broad, short back and head, and she has a thicker, longer coat than a working sheepdog.  She has very even markings, with a white blaze, full mane, white socks and white tail tip.  Ounce is also a ‘typical collie’ in her temperament and behaviour. Lovely.

The evolutionary compulsion

In my opinion, there is a biological reason why we want to conform and be different.  We need to ‘fit in’ so that we can be desirable to others, but we also need a diverse gene pool and we need to attract a mate.  To meet these needs, we are prepared to do almost anything and ‘variety is the spice of life’.

Going back to the health issues, we are, unfortunately, prepared to do many things in order to be ‘attractive’ to others.  People have always been happy to mutilate themselves and each other in the name of beauty, eg stilettos, makeup, piercings, FGM.  This is well documented, so I do not need to detail it here.

This compulsion is transferred to our dogs.  We want the same as everyone else, but we want ours to be better.  More beautiful, more unusual, more extreme, more fierce and so on.

My mother has passed down a family expression to me, which my sons now say.  It was said by my great-grandmother; “It’s a good job we’re not all the same, or we’d all want to marry the same man.  And it wouldn’t be you Charlie.”  Poor Charlie!  My conclusion is that we strive to be different, while fighting to be part of the human race.  It’s what makes us human, but also what makes us part of the evolutionary process.  Purple hair, purple puppy, something different.

Hopefully, we can recognise the need to promote the healthy ‘normal’ while celebrating the beautiful variety of life.  Pedigree dogs should be healthy, but this is only true as long as responsible breeders can produce enough dogs to meet public demand. Once we clamour for more and more ‘designer dogs’, unscrupulous people will see a chance to make big bucks by compromising standards, as Catherine Tait’s programme demonstrated.  Please bear in mind what a dog should look like when considering what to get for your best friend?

Remember..

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Or if you want to breed, read this Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

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

 

Crufts – the greatest dog show in the world

It’s a Dog’s World

Spent the day at Crufts, at the NEC in Birmingham.  Such a lovely atmosphere – dog people are the nicest, always.  Watched the YKC agility, including Hollie, who owns Ounce’s sister Pixie, running with her other dog, Blue.

Then I met some great breeders of hounds and terriers, talking to them about the challenge of finding a good dog and wanting to have other great breeders and breeds of dog to recommend, as part of my What Dog? service.

Did some shopping, including a little something new from Dogs & Horses – more on that later..  And some new toys for the girls, of course!

Then into the arena to watch the Heelwork to Music, followed by some great agility.  Heaven!

Congratulations to Sam Lane and Rival for winning the Novice Cup!

Caring for your diabetic dog

Managing long-term health conditions in your pets

Just as with human medicine, animal medical care is advancing all the time.  We are constantly improving what we can manage and how long animals with long-term conditions can be kept alive.  The great thing is that any advances in animal care may well be transferred to human medicine, meaning that we all live even longer – great!

I have already talked about Luna in relation to her last litter and written about what went wrong.  Since then, Luna has been diagnosed with diabetes and I thought it would be useful to review the management of this condition so far.

Symptoms of diabetes

These are similar to the symptoms of type 1 diabetes in humans, namely:

  • excessive thirst
  • excessive urination
  • lethargy or depression
  • unexplained weight loss

Luna has always been a ‘thirstier dog’ than my other dogs.  She has also been more prone to urine infections and has been the one more likely to have the occasional accident overnight.  She has had periods where she will suddenly produce a huge amount of urine in the house.  These symptoms were not hard to manage and I just thought that she had slightly poorer bladder control, compared with the other dogs.

When she was pregnant last year, both the drinking and urination seemed to get worse.  I was a bit unhappy about this, but she had no other symptoms and seemed generally in good health otherwise.  However, after she had gone through the delivery and subsequent operation, she had a period of seeming better than before.  This was followed by a gradual decline in her demeanour.  She became less lively and more subdued.  It was hard to pinpoint, but over the course of a few weeks we became aware that something wasn’t quite right.

Over Christmas, I realised that Luna was losing weight.  Again, it was quite a slow process and quite subtle, but by the time we were into the Christmas holidays, I knew she wasn’t right.  So on 27th December, I took her into the vet’s, expecting the worst.  Her weight had gone from 17-18 kgs to 15.95 kgs.  Straight away, the vet knew it was diabetes; there was glucose in her urine and a blood test confirmed it.

Initial management – routine is the key

So there we were, learning how to inject our dog, using a teddy bear to practice on!  It was a bit daunting, but we were given a ‘medipen’ which seemed pretty foolproof.  Well Chris managed to bend the needle on one of his practices, but we felt reasonably confident about having a go.

We were told that routine is the key to managing diabetes successfully in a dog.  So it would be no good giving her a quick walk round the block some days and a great long hike at the weekends.  Or putting down food for her to pick out when she wanted.  Or giving her treats throughout the day.

Fortunately for me, I also thrive on routine.  I get up and feed the dogs at 7am, every day, more or less.  I then walk them for around an hour, off lead, every day, roughly an hour after breakfast.  I used to feed them again at 4pm, but Luna must have her injections every 12 hours, with food.  So now they are fed at 7pm as well.  That was the biggest change.  It is also the hardest to stick to, since if we go out for a meal, or to the cinema, or I have a governors’ meeting and no-one else is in, then the routine must change slightly.  But we are really lucky, because I am around most of the time and able to set my own routine.

Giving the injections every 12 hours has become as routine as cleaning my teeth.  Fetch kit from fridge, open and screw on needle, turn dial to required number of units, remove cap. Wait for Luna to finish her (special diabetes) food, grab a handful of skin on the scruff of her neck and jab in the needle.  Press the button, wait 5 seconds and rub it.  Give her a kiss and tell her she is a special girl.  Remove needle and put in sharps bin.  Return kit to fridge.  Check there are plenty of needles and insulin phials.  Order more of these and/or sacks of food as required.  (I recommend Pet Drugs Online for this)

Of course there has been the odd mishap.  I have stuck the needle into my finger or thumb a few times.  Bent the needle once or twice.  Squirted the insulin onto my hand instead of into her neck.  Panicked that there isn’t enough left in the phial and when I should change it over.

Stabilising the condition

Luna immediately improved following the diagnosis.  She went back to her normal self; happy and lively.  Her weight slowly returned to normal, over the next few weeks.  She stopped drinking and weeing to excess.  Fantastic.  We were told it could take a few months to stabilise the condition and to sort out the correct dosage of insulin.  Luckily, we have a good routine and this seems to have really benefitted Luna, as she has been doing really well.

After a couple of weeks, Luna spent the whole day at the vet’s having something called a ‘glucose curve’ done.  They did the equivalent of a pinprick test on her every hour and looked at the level of glucose in her blood.  This told them whether she was on the correct dosage.  Then a month later, she went back for a blood test, which showed the levels over a longer period.  This will be reviewed again 3 months later.

Hypo or hyper?

When the glucose levels are not stable, diabetics can become hypo- or hyperglycaemic.  In people, this is a concern and diabetics generally check their blood glucose levels throughout the day and change their food intake accordingly.  However, in dogs this is less variable, so less of an issue.  We were told that if her glucose level was ‘out’ she would generally seem unwell and we should take her into the vet’s to be checked and treated accordingly.  Fingers crossed, nothing has happened, yet.

One variable Luna has to cope with is her agility training and competition.  We made the decision to continue with this, as she really enjoys it, it keeps her fit and mentally stimulated and is part of her normal life.  She was so happy to be back!  She really loves running around with Chris.  I tend to find that a few hours after a lesson, she will come up to me and tell me that she is feeling in need of a ‘little something’.  I give her a handful of her normal food and she is fine.  Simple!

Other long-term conditions

In addition to managing Luna’s diabetes, I monitor Sunny’s arthritis.  She has spent her life jumping around after balls and doing agility (she retired aged 10), so it’s not surprising that she has a bit of stiffness in her shoulders.  She is on an anti-inflammatory for this and I make sure that she has regular check-ups.

Then the cat also suffered from pancreatitis last year and has had some ongoing kidney issues, for which he has a specialist renal diet.  All good fun!

As you can see, there are many ways in which we monitor and care for our pets, thanks to the ongoing development of veterinary medicine.  Personally, I don’t believe animals should be kept alive at any cost, but for something like diabetes, the prognosis is really good.  I am indebted to MK Veterinary Group for their care.

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?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Or if you want to breed, read this Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?