Category Archives: Dog doc – reader’s questions

10 Common Mistakes of New Dog Owners

What are the mistakes dog owners make?

I’ve been reflecting on why dogs end up being re-homed – what is it that makes someone feel that they cannot cope?  It was one of the questions I asked on my breed questionnaire and I was pleased that those who responded generally said they did cope with their dog.

Apparently, only 10% of dogs stay with one owner for the whole of their lives.  Last November saw a rise in the number of dogs being abandoned.  So why does this happen?

mistakesMatching expectations

  • Buying a cute puppy that grows much bigger than expected.  NB: All puppies are more or less the same size at birth!  I think there is a common misconception that a small puppy will only grow into a small dog.  It very much depends on the age at which you see it and bring it home and of course what its parents are like.  Even if you buy a puppy from a responsible breeder, you may not see both parents.  Sometimes puppies grow bigger than their mothers, (as Ounce has done).
  • You can tell what a puppy is going to be like from the first time you see it.  Hmm, I can recount many examples of a puppy being ‘the quiet one’ or ‘the lively one’ and then seeing it as an adult and realising that it changed quite  a bit!  The main reason that this is not true however is that when visiting puppies, you are only there for a short time.  So they might all be asleep, or all rushing about, except for the one that you are looking at.  Just because one puppy seems to snuggle into you does not necessarily mean that it will always be a snuggle monster!

mistakesStarting out

  • Being unrealistic about puppy’s behaviour in the first few days.  The first few nights and weeks are critical in a puppy’s life.  How you manage this period can make a big difference to how well your puppy develops.  Common mistakes at this time include: not watching and managing toileting; not getting up in the night to check on puppy; not managing the puppy in your home, so that it is left to chew and damage your things.  Puppies need to be safe, which is why I always recommend Cages and Crates.
  • Inconsistent response to behaviours.  This happens most often in the first few days and weeks of owning a dog, but can then become worse or better depending on how well family members communicate.  When you have a puppy living in a family home, with a number of adults and children, it is very difficult to make sure that everyone’s response to biting, or jumping up is the same.

mistakesTraining mistakes

  • Lack of training.  It sounds so obvious, but when you get a puppy you need to train it!  Puppies don’t learn effortlessly – they need patience and consistency (just like children).  Sadly, many people expect that their dog will just learn to behave as it gets older.   This is simply not the case.  If your puppy jumps up and you don’t teach it not to, it will ALWAYS jump up.
  • Harsh treatment.  Unfortunately, people think that if a dog does something wrong, you should tell it off.  Sometimes people get really angry with their dog for its behaviour.  But the dog may not have even realised that it has done anything wrong.  If you leave food on a low table when the dog is alone, do not be astonished if you come back and find it has been eaten!  My dogs are not especially food driven and won’t ‘surf the worktops’ for food, on the whole.  However, I would never leave anything within their reach and I would NEVER tell them off if they did eat something.  My bad, not theirs. Of course it is good to have boundaries and expectations with regards your dog’s behaviour, but you must be realistic as well.
  • No rewards.   I try to focus on the behaviour that I DO want from my dog, not the stuff I don’t want.  And I always reward the good.  There are four main ways of rewarding a dog:

mistakesOngoing problems

  • Too much food.   When we love our dogs, is it so hard to resist giving them treats and titbits.  They are superb at begging and are easily able to act as though they haven’t eaten for a year!  However, this can soon lead to them being overweight and to digestive issues, or even disease such as diabetes.  Bad news all round.
  • Too much exercise.  It’s a lifestyle choice, to run with your dog, or take part in dog sports, or to play with your dog every day.  Your dog will thank you for a great quality of life and be happy and healthy, on the whole.  Unfortunately your dog may also develop injuries or joint pain as a result.  You also need to think about routine and what is best for you and your dog.
  • Too little exercise.  We all know that dogs need exercise and should be walked every day, but sometimes we just don’t feel like it.  Many people work long hours and just cannot find the time to walk their dog during the week.  This is a real shame, because the walking is so good for you as well as your dog.  Again, the routine is good and benefits you both mentally and physically.

I hope you have found this list thought-provoking.  What mistakes would you add?  Please CONTACT ME and let me know?

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.

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

Guarding behaviour – how to spot it and manage it

Guarding behaviour – when is it a problem?

Guarding behaviour here relates to a dog being protective, specifically in this post I am talking about when walking with your dog and being approached by another dog.  It is a problem when your dog becomes aggressive because they are trying to guard you.

I confess; I don’t like everyone I meet.  Sometimes I get to know someone and decide they are not really my kind of person.  And occasionally, though I hate to admit it, I dislike someone straight away.  Call me prejudiced if you like.  I think it is a natural human trait.  We are naturally unsure of people we don’t know and if we have a bad experience with someone, this might ‘colour’ our judgement when meeting someone similar.

guarding behaviourDogs do this too, believe it or not.  If they have a bad experience with one breed or type of dog, they carry this over to other examples of that breed, or type.  So you will very often hear people say “my dog doesn’t like Dalmatians” or “my dog hates small dogs”.  Racist?  Surely not.  But it’s true.

The other day someone said to me that her collie was “a real snob.  She only likes other collies.”  This is also true.  Border Collies in particular, in my experience, are very fixed on their own breed.  They almost universally dislike other breeds of dog.

Reading signals from other dogs

What does this have to do with guarding behaviour?  Well it’s about how dogs form relationships with others.  This in turn is related to how well a dog is able to ‘read’ another dog.  So dogs are usually fine to interact with other dogs who are open and friendly when they approach.

Not all dogs like their space to be invaded, as I have said many times.  This relates to how they interact with children but also how they are around other dogs.

guarding behaviourDogs also have a problem reading some body language from other dogs.  This might be because of their markings – Dalmatians being the prime example.  Or it might be due to their shape – anything with a tail that curls over their back can be problematic, as it is harder for the dog to show submissive behaviour (tail between legs).  Dogs also struggle to read all-black dogs.  Bearing in mind that dogs are not able to communicate through language, being able to read posture and subtle facial expressions is the key to effective communication.

Misunderstandings lead to guarding

Once you appreciate that dogs are not always that great at understanding each other, (due in the main to the differences we have bred into them,) it becomes easier to see why problems can occur.  So a lovely, friendly, open dog may not always be quick enough to see that the dog they are enthusiastically bounding over to greet is less than impressed.

What then happens is that the dog being approached becomes cautious and wary.  We then get into a cycle of behaviour with our dog:

  • dog reacts to being approached by another dog
  • we react to our dog being upset and become protective of our dog
  • we put their dog on lead when they see another dog
  • dog gets put on lead and thinks something is wrong
  • dog feels us being fearful and wants to protect them
  • GUARDING behaviour: dog attacks approaching dog
  • we react to our dog being upset…

Can you see how this can quickly escalate?  You then have a problem.  You have a dog labelled as ‘reactive’ and an owner who lives in a state of constant anxiety.

guarding behaviourHow to deal with guarding behaviour

Let’s take a step back here.  If your dog is off lead, running around and another dog approaches to say hello – so what?  If your dog doesn’t like it, they can say so.  Usually – of course you may need to watch this if you have a large, strong dog being approached by a cheeky and annoying dog.

If you feel that you don’t want your dog getting into a discussion with other dogs, catch their attention.  NOT their body – in other words, please DON’T rush to put them on the lead.  Just call them and either hold their attention to you with a treat, or play with a toy.  Your dog should be focused on you, not the boring other dog.

Give it a go?  Try not to grab your dog.  Please remember to reward all the behaviour you want and try to ignore the stuff you don’t want.  If they look at you, say ‘yes!’ and reward.

Over friendliness in your dog

Sometimes you have the goofy dog who just loves to say hello to ALL dogs, regardless of how they are behaving.  Please try to manage this behaviour too?

Don’t say “oh he just wants to play!” or “he loves other dogs” “he’s just being friendly”  IT IS NOT WANTED!  Be aware that your dog is being the loud-mothed lout that you turn and walk away from at the office.

Yes I know that sounds boring and mean-spirited, but really you are just being polite and respectful.  Your dog won’t get attacked and you won’t get shouted at.  If you teach your dog to be well behaved, you can then allow it to play with familiar friends.

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.

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

Survey Results – Breed recommendations

Results on recommending your dog – what did it show?

Last week I wrote about recommending your dog and decided to create a short survey to see how people rate their own dog.  I used Survey Monkey to produce the survey.  It’s quick and relatively easy to use, and free for a basic version.  Unfortunately this makes it a bit limited.  This mainly meant that I couldn’t have questions where multiple answers could be chosen.  Anyway, here are the results.

I posted the survey into the agilitynet Facebook group which has thousands of members.  I explained that I wasn’t looking for collie owners to reply and thankfully people did read that.  Within an hour I had over 100 replies to my survey.  Another limitation of the free service is that you can only see a hundred responses.  Still, it gives us a fair amount of information.

NB: This survey was completed by genuine dog lovers who actively participate in dog sports with their dogs.

surveyWhat breed of dog do you have?

Of the one hundred responses, 15 owned cocker spaniels (a good agility alternative to a collie).  There were 11 German Shepherds or Belgian Shepherds and 10 crossbreeds.  Other popular breeds were Labrador/Retrievers, Jack Russells, Lurchers (a crossbreed), Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Poodles.

There were a wide range of other breeds, including Chinese Crested Powderpuff, Tibetan Terrier, Basset Fauve de Bretagne, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Munsterlander, Pomeranian and Corgi.  Forty different breeds are represented.

How did you choose your dog?

Apparently, 57% of the respondents chose their dogs for its character.  9% chose on looks alone, 10% on size, 6% on ease of purchase and a couple of people talked about hair (non-shedding).  No-one considered cost – very interesting!

Has your dog been what you expected?

An overwhelming 69% said it had been much better than they expected – isn’t that lovely?  Only 6% said it had been much harder than they expected.   The breeds that were found to be harder were:

  • Spaniel x 2
  • Miniature American Shepherd
  • GSDxBC
  • Kelpie
  • Belgian Shepherd Tervueren

surveyHow well does your dog fit your lifestyle?

Again, the vast majority said it was easy to manage their dog and no-one said they struggled sometimes.   Breeds whose owners said they had had to make adjustments included:

  • Cocker spaniels
  • Kelpie
  • Terriers
  • Labradors
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Basset
  • JRT x German Spitz
  • Rottweiler
  • Miniature American Shepherd
  • German Shepherd

The conclusion I draw from this (and my own experience) is that agility people go from Border Collies to Working Cocker Spaniels because they are smaller.  They are different dogs and can be harder work!  Demanding yet not as easy to train.  I do know many lovely Working Cockers though..

What are the best features of your dog?

Great companion 36
Easy to train (not a lurcher!)
Fun to play with 7
Laid back nature 7
Lovely to cuddle 2
Rewarding (improvement since rescue) 1
Ability to connect and communicate with me 1
All (or most) of the above 17

What are the hardest things about owning your dog?

They are very demanding!  A third of the responses put this as their answer.  Other issues included being hard to train (Working Cockers again!), barks too much, doesn’t like other dogs, sensitive, hunting instinct, guarding, can’t be let off lead, escape artist, finding care when going on holiday and so on.  Six people said there was nothing hard about owning a dog 🙂

surveyWould you buy this type of dog again?

Three quarters of the respondents said “yes definitely, already have”.  Almost everyone else said yes probably.

Who do you think would be the best home for your dog?

60% of those responding (perhaps not surprisingly) said that an experienced dog owner would be the best home for their dog.  Of course in an ideal world, we want people not to take on a dog unless they know what they are doing.  It’s a bit of a catch 22 situation though, as if you have never owned a dog, how are you supposed to learn?  ‘Any home’ was chosen for a retriever, a poodle and a lurcher.  A whippet owner thought they would be good for a novice owner – I agree with that.

How much exercise and/or training do you do with your dog each week?

A whopping 87% said they do ‘regular walks every day, with some training classes each week’.

Remember, my respondents were drawn from a group who are active with their dogs and compete in dog sports – great result!

And finally..

surveyIf you were buying a dog again, what is the best advice you would give yourself?

Look for a responsible breeder who does health checks and socialisation 9
Research the health of the breed – be prepared for health issues 9
Meet as many of the breed as possible and get to know them 3
Take note of the downsides of the breed – does it fit your lifestyle.

Pay attention to temperament, energy level, intelligence. Not all dogs are cuddly

7
Make sure you can see the mother and rest of litter, spend time talking to the breeder 4
It’s not all about the breed – dogs are individuals

There can be variation within the breed as to temperament, drive and trainability

4
Go for it/trust your instinct – or not! 5
You get out what you put in 3
Find a breeder who cares and wants to keep in touch
Make sure new dogs will fit in with existing dogs
Don’t choose on colour
Don’t choose the smallest puppy
Have a rescue 3
The first few weeks are the worst
Be patient and relax and enjoy the ride, even if everything doesn’t go to plan first time
Never compare what you had
Don’t do it! Go on holiday instead!  Are you sure? 2
Don’t end up with 8!

Hope you have found my results interesting?

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.

Routine – the key to your dog’s heart?

Why routine is important for your dog

Last week out walking I met a very sweet 18 week-old Border Collie puppy.  I started chatting to her ‘mum’ about the joy of having a Border Collie, while the pup ran around my girls, some of whom even managed to speak to her nicely lol.

routine for dogsAs I usually do in these situations, I mentioned how challenging it is to walk a puppy for a limited amount of time, as it goes by so quickly.  According to Kennel Club exercise guidelines, a puppy of this age does not need as much exercise as an adult dog.

“If you over-exercise a growing puppy you can overtire it and damage its developing joints, causing early arthritis. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown, i.e. 15 minutes (up to twice a day) when three months old, 20 minutes when four months old etc. Once they are fully grown, they can go out for much longer.”

The lovely owner of this pup said she had talked to the vet about the amount of exercise to give and had been told that it was fine for the puppy to have plenty of exercise, as she is such an active breed!  Hmm, well I’m not happy with that!

Being consistent

Anyway, I’m always banging on about the amount of exercise we should or shouldn’t give our dogs.  But what really frustrated me when talking to this person was that she said “I decided not to walk as far (she’d been doing 3 hours a day I believe!) yesterday so the puppy was ‘playing up’ all day long; being really naughty.”  You think?  Might that possibly be because she is used to walking for hours each day and wonders why she isn’t doing so today?  Might that be because walking for so many hours per day has made her fit and a flea, so that is now what she expects to have?  It’s not her fault her owner suddenly couldn’t be arsed, is it!

routine for dogsFit for purpose

This owner also explained to me that she had grown up on a farm, where the collies were ‘running with the tractors all day’.   Maybe, but actually I doubt it.  When your parents have dogs, you take them for granted; they are part of the furniture.  You don’t really pay attention to whether they are actually running about all day, or whether they do a bit, then take themselves off for a good long sleep.  And I challenge most teenagers to tell me whether the dogs owned by their parents suffer from arthritis, or whether they are on medication.

When considering getting a dog you must start by thinking about the pattern of your everyday life.  What time do you currently have that you are prepared to set aside for a dog?  If you honestly have nothing going on in your life and want to walk for 3 hours EVERY DAY that’s fine, but really?  Who can do that?  Your dog must fit the life that you have, not the one you think you would like.

Feeding routines

Yes, yes I know; in the wild animals have to hunt for their food and may not catch anything, so why do they need routine feeding?  What time do you have your breakfast?  And your dinner?  I bet it is within a few minutes of the same time every day.  Sure, you can cope with going out to dinner and waiting a bit, but the term ‘hangry’ has not been coined for no reason.

I bet that if you studied wild animals closely, you would find that their behaviour follows the same exact patterns every day.  Wake up, toilet, go hunting/grazing, do some exercise, sleep for a while…

routine for dogsBe kind to your dog

They will thank you for it.  If you follow a rough routine and do the same things with your dog most days, you will have a much happier, more relaxed dog.  They will know what is going on and be able to manage their expectations.  Changes in routine are scary and difficult for dogs, who have no control over their environment or the structure of their lives in our homes.

Be patient if you do have to make changes.  When you take dogs away on holiday, they might have accidents in the night, or be sick, simply because they are not able to cope with what is happening.

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.

Practice Dog: A great way to prepare for dog ownership

Dog Doc: How do you know whether you are ready for a dog?  Practice!

I have just written about going away with your dog, but it’s also important to be able to leave your dogs.  I find it really challenging to get away, but not because I struggle to leave my dogs; I just have too many of them!  Giving someone the opportunity to practice owning a dog for a few days is a great way for me to get away.

practice dogOne of the key questions I ask when vetting potential puppy owners is about the holidays that people take and the arrangements they make for their dog.  It’s not just about what these arrangements might be as much as the fact they have made plans and thought about it.  Someone I know took on a dog without giving any thought to the fact that they were going to leave the country for months at a time.  The poor thing was then dumped on a family member who did not want it, resulting in it ultimately being returned to rescue (sad emoji).

Leaving your dog with friends

This is my preferred second choice option, after having a house sitter.  I absolutely love being able to leave my dogs with friends and then reciprocate by having theirs to stay.  Guilt free (and I don’t have to pay for the boarding).

I love having other people’s dogs to stay.  I would board other dogs on a regular basis, left to myself.  We have plenty of space and the garden is big enough.  Unfortunately I am not single, and I own five somewhat grumpy collies!  They honestly don’t mind other dogs in the house – I have never, ever had a fight or even a disagreement.  But they don’t love it; they would prefer not to have visitors.

One of the things I love about having other dogs to stay is that you have a chance to experience the joys of different breeds.  I find it completely fascinating, learning about the foibles and features of different breeds.  Equally, it is fascinating to see how my friends find my dogs, particularly those who have not previously experienced the joy of Border Collies!

practice dogEnjoy the practice

When you are familiar with a particular breed, you take them for granted and expect all dogs to be like yours.  If you have more than one, you might realise that there are differences between individual dogs.  However, it is not until you have a different breed of dog in your house that you can truly start to see just what different dogs can be like.

10 things I hate about you

For example, Border Collies in particular:

  1. Are demanding!  If they think you will engage with them, they will persist.  On and on, over and over.
  2. Are clever.  They can figure out your weaknesses and work out how to manipulate you into doing their bidding
  3. Have great stamina. They are designed to work on the hills all day, so they can keep going for far longer then you can.
  4. Don’t like water much.  OK so that might be a good thing, if you don’t like wet, muddy, smelly dogs, but plenty of people love throwing a ball into the river; Border Collies are not usually that fussed.
  5. Are hairy.  They moult, so twice a year, for about 3 (or maybe 6) weeks they leave long silky hairs absolutely everywhere
  6. Can be obsessive.  They LOVE to play with a tennis ball.  They don’t just want you to throw it once, but hundreds of times.  They can also become obsessive about watching lights on the ceiling, or squirrels in the garden, or…
  7. Are destructive.  If they are left to their own devices, they will find something to do.  This might be chewing the skirting board (Ounce!) or the sofa, or the walls.  They need something to engage their brain, or you will have to leave them somewhere safe.
  8. Are neurotic.  If you don’t train them and manage them, they can easily be nervous and reactive.  This means they react to something they perceive to be scary, but then remember that thing FOR EVER and always react to it.
  9. Are herding.  Obviously, they are sheepdogs – doh!  But that means that they will try to herd children, or other dogs, or cars, or runners, or rabbits or… Basically if it moves, a Border Collie might try to round it up.
  10. Like a cuddle, but only on their terms.  They are not lap dogs, and many Border Collies do not like being cuddled.

Naturally, some of these characteristics can be found in other dogs, but reading endless posts on the Wonderful World of Border Collies these represent the major issues that many people have to cope with in their dogs.  If you have never spent time with a BC, you won’t have experienced their ‘special features’.

practice dogThings I love about Border Collies

Just for balance:

  • They are intelligent.  You can teach them anything you can think of (and quite a few things you didn’t!)
  • They want to do it.  You want to play?  Happy to oblige.  You want to work?  Yes sure.  You want to climb a mountain?  Right there with you.
  • BCs are quick and agile.  If you want to do dog sports, they are your dog.
  • They are versatile.  Border Collies can do anything.
  • They communicate with you.  And right now it’s dinner time, so I will have to hurry up :p
  • They are dog shaped.  This means they are generally healthy and happy, in good physical condition.
  • Border Collies are beautiful.  Just saying.

That’s enough, I’m getting sentimental about my breed, as usual.  So if you are thinking about getting a dog, why not see if you can look after a friend’s for them while they go away?  Practice makes perfect, so they say.

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.

Buying a dog – busting some myths

Buying a dog: how can I get the healthiest puppy?

Myth No 1: Crossbreeds are healthier

I was asked recently if I knew any ‘Maltipoo’ breeders.  No.  I don’t know any breeders of crossbreeds.  I suggested they bought a Maltese.  Why does it need to have a bit of ‘poo’ in it?  It seems that everyone is obsessed with having a poodle cross, so that there is no dog hair.  That is great, except that you are still going to have mud, wee, poo (actual poo!) and chewing.  You still need to be 100% committed to having a dog and taking care of a LIVING BEING.

what dog breedI looked up Maltipoo and found the info page on Pets4homes/maltipoo which I thought was really informative.  It lists the health issues for the ‘breed’ along with whether or not these can be tested for.  Crucially, the site says “Today, there are first generation (f1) Maltipoos, second generation, third and fourth generation Maltipoos, but what are considered the healthiest are first generation dogs“.  How will you know which generation you are getting?  For pedigree dogs, the heritage is known, but crossbreed breeders rarely provide that level of information.

It was interesting to read about the health issues for Maltipoos.  The page lists 13 health issues for Maltese, of which only two can be tested to prevent.  Poodles (toy and miniature) have an additional 23 possible health issues, or which only 4 can be tested to prevent.  Wow, I’d be concerned about this, particularly as some of these issues have serious implications for the quality of life of the dog.

By contrast, the page for Pets4homes/Border Collie, lists 8 health issues, ALL of which have health tests available, other than for epilepsy. This means that you are far less likely to have health issues from a PEDIGREE Border Collie.

what breedMyth No 2: I need to see both parents to know if I am buying a good dog

When you are buying from a responsible breeder, you are unlikely to see both parents.  Most pedigree breeders want to have parents that are unrelated, so they are usually owned by different people.  When you are buying a pedigree dog, you can check the health and parentage of the parents before you go and look at the puppies.  So you will know what they are like.  The Kennel club – mate select lists all the registered pedigree dogs with their health tests for you to check.  In addition, for Border Collies we have the Anadune database which gives us a great deal of information.

If an owner has both parents, they are usually a casual breeder who has just thought it would be ‘fun’ to have some puppies.  Often a crossbreed (see above) and often without bothering about available health tests.

what dog breedMyth No 3: As long as I take it to the vet when I get it, that will be fine

Yes of course you should definitely get your puppy checked over by a vet when you get it.  But that won’t make it healthy!  The vet can tell you whether your puppy has been well raised and nurtured, from a health point of view.  They can give their expert opinion about whether or not it is from good stock.  It might be possible to identify serious health issues, such as a heart defect.  You might then decide to take the dog back to the breeder, who might then sell it on to some other poor sap.

However, it’s already too late for most health issues.  Again, it’s about having the dog bred from healthy parents – that is the crucial factor in determining long-term health.  Many of the issues that will end up costing you money in the long term cannot be identified by the vet at 8 weeks of age.

“We will still love it, even if it has health issues”

OK, that’s fair enough for you.  But what about the poor dog?  You are sentencing it to a life of pain and suffering, because you couldn’t be bothered to buy it from someone who tried to ensure that it would be as healthy as possible.  Not to mention the stress, anxiety and suffering that you will go through alongside your dog, every time it is ill.  Oh and don’t forget the thousands of pounds you could pay in vet’s bills, especially if the insurers can determine that it was a ‘pre-existing condition’.

Anyway, why would you do that?  Why would you choose to buy a dog, without being sure that it is as healthy as it can be?  After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without knowing it was safe to drive, would you?

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.

Scary dogs – when is it OK to be scared?

When I am scared of dogs

It’s confession time: I am scared of dogs.  Well not ALL dogs, obviously; I adore mine!  Truthfully, I am not really scared of ‘dogs’; I am scared of some of their behaviours.  It has taken me a lifetime to realise this.  I have spent my life around dogs, so I understand their behaviour and communication.  To me, it is obvious when a dog is scared or upset and that can be a scary thing, because dogs have big, sharp teeth and strong jaws.

German Shepherds are my downfall; they are big dogs that are bred to guard their owners.  I have met many GSDs in my life and of course some of them are lovely, but in my experience and humble opinion, they can be nervous and wary.  This makes them ideal guard dogs, because unlike a Labrador for example, who will lick you death, they understand who is a stranger.  They are incredibly protective of what is theirs and are perfectly designed to do the job they are bred for, to guard.

Guard dogs guard – it’s their job

scared dogs scary dogsWhen I was in my late teens my mum went to visit a friend whose German Shepherd had had pups and she took me along with her.  She went into the stable where they were and sat down to get close to the pups.  I tentatively came in behind her.  The bitch got up and moved slowly and stiffly towards me.  I burst into tears and ran away.   She knew I was nervous and I knew she knew.

Justifying it to myself, I think it is OK to be scared of dogs in certain situations.  I would never harass a person, child or adult, into approaching or stroking a dog.

Interactions must be on your own terms and that goes for the dog as well as the person.

Say hello nicely

I’m old enough to be from a generation that was taught that it was polite for children to go up to adults and give them a kiss, if they were an elderly relative or a family friend.  Yuk!  There was nothing more awkward, nor more disgusting than having to approach and make contact with a stranger, especially if they had old, wrinkly skin and thick makeup.  Fortunately nowadays we don’t make children do that.  So why would we do it to our dogs?

Visiting a friend recently, I was standing at the front door, when their young, nervous German Shepherd was ‘brought out to meet me’.  She was barking, being held by the collar and thrust forward towards me.  Needless to say I was NOT going to hold out my hand to stroke the dog!  I backed off and asked that the dog be taken away.

scary dog
The puppy – very obviously saying “please fuss me”

How to introduce a dog to a visitor

When someone comes into my house I always, always shut my dogs away.  I then bring people into the house and ‘settle them in’.  I’m lucky that I have a glass wall, so people can see my dogs and they can see the person.  I can then gauge reactions and assess the way forward.  You can use a stairgate, so that the dog can see you with your visitors, from a safe distance.

When my visitor is relaxed and sitting down with a drink, I ask if I can bring some or all the dogs in.  Sometimes people come in and never meet my dogs – that’s fine.  If the person is OK, then I let them out.  I would expect my dogs to come over and want to say hello to people and visiting dogs.  However, if they didn’t want to, that would be completely fine.  I wouldn’t ever force the issue.  When a visit is nervous, I suggest they offer the dog a treat to encourage them forward.  However, I would never force it until the dog is ready.  When dogs know that the person visiting is a friend of yours, they are more likely to relax.

I do have dog phobic people in the house and I would always wait until they are comfortable and talk through what was going to happen.  When Busy (my therapy dog) meets people she simply goes near them and leans against their legs.  I would always expect my dogs to move away if they felt uncomfortable.  If a child chases round after your dog, don’t be surprised if they turn round and snap in their face.  Well you wouldn’t like someone doing that to you, would you?

scary dogsVisiting dogs

Keep visiting dogs apart from your dogs until they are settled and have had a sniff around house and garden.  I let the dogs into the garden, so they have the space to move away if they want to.  When my dogs are out on a walk I expect them to ignore other dogs completely – I train them to do this.  If another dog bounces up to them to say hello I expect them to snap at them to say ‘go away’ and I expect the other dog to respect that.  If we are walking with other dogs they will wander around each other and be completely fine.

Basically, it’s about allowing the dog to manage the interaction on its own terms.  I think that is especially true when managing dogs on walks, but that is worthy of another post..

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.

Dog Sports – what type of activity do you want to do?

Dog sports: which one will you choose?

This morning I was tagged in a thread on Facebook where a girl with a gorgeous lilac boy (albeit he had amber rather than blue eyes :p) was asking about competitive obedience.  I commented to ask whether this was the lilac and white boy who is Ounce’s younger brother (it wasn’t).  I also, rather provocatively said that  we do agility because obedience is boring.  Cheeky!

Someone rightly came back at me to say that it was only boring if you did it badly.  Another person made the comment that her dogs hated agility, but loved obedience – we’re not all the same, she said.  Which again reminds me of my great-grandmother’s saying “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)”  So true.

dog sportsHow do you choose what to do with your dog?

There are many dog sports and activities to choose from, so it can be difficult to decide what to do.  I’ve already provided a beginners guide to agility and I may have mentioned once or twice that that’s what we do, but what else is there?

Obedience

Once you have completed basic puppy training you can go onto more comprehensive obedience training.  You can work on:

  • Improving the quality of your heelwork, both on and off the lead
  • Positioning the dog – sit, down and stand; being able to do these commands from a distance
  • Retrieve – waiting while you throw something, then fetching it ‘cleanly’, bringing it straight back to you and presenting it nicely, waiting while you take it.
  • Recall – coming straight back to you at all times, even over an obstacle or from a strange angle
  • Scent work – finding a cloth from amongst a number, or something hidden
  • Stay – being able to lie calmly for a length of time while you are out of sight
  • Stop – being able to stop and wait from a distance and while travelling towards you
  • Moving amongst other dogs calmly without being distracted
  • Send away – travelling away from you confidently to somewhere you have indicated

These activities are challenging but very satisfying to achieve.  The main site for obedience work is www.obedienceuk.net

Scentwork

Following on from obedience, why not try some scentwork with your dog.  This is ideal if you have a gundog or hound type of dog, as they are much more motivated to follow a scent than anything else.  I recommend my friend Becky Harris and her Scent Detectives classes if you can get to them – they seem like such fun.

Flyball

Fast and furious for the dog and once they are trained, a fun and sociable activity for you.  Teams compete around the country and the top teams then go to Crufts!   http://www.flyball.org.uk/

Heelwork to Music

If you have watched Crufts you will have seen Mary Ray and her amazing dogs.  This activity is also growing rapidly and includes teams performing in formation. http://www.maryray.co.uk/ Also see Ashleigh and Pudsey who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2012.

Field Trials

I know nothing about field trials, because I don’t have gundogs, but if you have a gundog, this would be a great way to get them thinking and keep them fit.  www.thekennelclub.org.uk/fieldtrials

Other Activities

  • Cani-X
  • Disc dog
  • Hoopers
  • Ringcraft (for showing)
  • Scramble and scurry
  • Rally
  • Treiball
  • Trick Training

I’ve also recently become aware of something else – bikejor!  This is an extension of what we already do with our dogs, as I wrote about earlier dogs & bikes; just much more hazardous!

dog sportsWhat type of dog?

I have already mentioned that hounds are probably best for scentwork, and gundogs for field trials.  You probably want to think about an active breed like a Dalmatian if you want to do cani-X.  Huskies spring to mind for bikejor.

Naturally, Border Collies are bright enough to turn their hand to most dog sports and activities.  They have the capacity to follow complex and subtle instruction, with the desire to learn and please you.  Some dogs have the brain power but not the willpower.  But many different breeds can compete or have fun in many different sports.

For more information, follow the links I’ve given here or look on the Kennel Club website.  Or talk to breeders about what dog sports their breed can do?

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.

 

Two puppies at once – twice the fun?

Double trouble – why two puppies is not such a great idea

“My husband and I are looking for two puppies? Are you likely to have any available in the near future?  We have had a border collie before.”

What do you think?  Is it a good idea?  I know lots of people who have two puppies from the same litter.  The usual story is that they went to look at one and there was going to be one left, so they got both.  Why?

I’m going to say right up front that I was brought up to think this was a bad idea.  But let’s look at the pros and cons:

Positive reasons to have two puppies

  • Playmates – what could be nicer for the puppies than to have a permanent, same age playmate?
  • Easier to leave – puppies are less likely to suffer from separation anxiety if they are with another dog
  • Less destructive – you might think that two pups together would ‘wear each other out’ so be less demanding and less destructive

Basically, it is lovely for a puppy to have another puppy to play with all the time, but it does come at a price..

double troubleNegatives around having two puppies at once

  • Twice the trouble!
  • Twice the chewing
  • Twice the pooing
  • Twice the training

That’s the truth of it – you will have to do twice as much training as with one puppy.  When you have two puppies together, they become a ‘unit’ and are totally focused on each other.    They rely on each for entertainment and look to each other for support.

To some extent, I have this problem with keeping a puppy when I already have the mother.  The pup will become totally fixated on her mum when we are out and it is much harder for me to gain her attention.  Fortunately, with Ounce, I had already had this experience, so I spent longer working on training her separately, before taking her out with the pack.  I also try to make sure that I do call her to me every day, so that she pays attention to me, rather than to Busy and the other dogs.

When you have two puppies at once, it is essential that you train them separately, so that they learn some level of independence.  Also, so that they learn to focus on you, not just on each other.

“They are so full on and it is hard to get them to listen to me.  Why are they such hard work?”

Not just as puppies – why two continues to be harder

As they get older, the chewing and the destruction caused by the double trouble should reduce, to some extent.  They won’t have been as easy to manage though, so it might take longer to get them into good habits.

However, you will continue to find that they are more than twice the work.  If they spend lots of time playing together, they will be really fit and therefore need more exercise!  If you want to go to classes, you will need to go to twice as many.  Trying to concentrate on more than one dog in a class is extremely demanding – trust me, I’ve tried it!

As they get older, you will find that they both start to have health issues around the same time.  You might then be paying out for two lots of health care and health management.  Then of course you will have two old dogs at the same time.

Finally, it is much harder for one dog to lose its sibling at an old age, than for a younger dog to lose its older companion.  And much harder for you, too.

Please think very carefully before getting two puppies from the same litter?  Why do you want to do it?  What do you hope to achieve?  If you think it will be easier, or that they will keep each other company because you are out all day, then please think again?

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 the 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.