Category Archives: Dog doc – reader’s questions

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.

Grooming your dog: Tops tips for a beautiful dog

How to keep your dog in tip top condition

Ask yourself: how lazy am I?  Then ask yourself: how rich am I?  I think these are the two key questions when considering what dog will suit you.  This is particularly important when thinking about the care your dog will need relating to its grooming requirements.

Long or short coat?

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

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

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

Other care required for a Border Collie will include:

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

Hypoallergenic or ‘non-moulting’ coat

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

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

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

Using a Grooming Service

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

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

By way of contrast: 

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

Grooming tools

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

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

Microchipping

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

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

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.

 

How much exercise should your dog have?

Dog Doc Question 23: How far should you walk your dog?

Yesterday I talked about gardens and how much outdoor space your dog needs.  Today I am talking more specifically about walking and exercise. I do provide a comprehensive guide to exercising your puppy in my puppy packs.  All KC Assured Breeders must do this as part of the requirements of the scheme.

Let’s start by talking about puppies and exercise.  How much exercise would you give this person?

Would you take her for a two hour hike?  Would you go for a run with her?  Would you take her out with a load of friends and other, older children and let her run around with them?  She’s raring to go and full of life, so that sounds about right, doesn’t it?  A puppy is like a toddler.  Just because they look like a dog and dogs need to be walked, doesn’t mean they can go wherever you want.  Be sensible, please?

Growth plates in dogs

There is another, important reason why puppies should not be over-exercised.  They have things called ‘growth plates’ which have to close.Growth plates are soft areas that sit at the ends of the long bones in puppies and young dogs. They contain rapidly dividing cells that allow bones to become longer until the end of puberty.  If you allow a puppy to do too much exercise, they will damage their bones and often suffer fractures.  More information about appropriate exercise can be found in this article.

How much is too much?

Puppies are self-regulating.  This means that when they’ve had enough exercise, they will stop.  So if you took a puppy out for a walk and they lay down, that means they’ve had enough.  It doesn’t take much.  You might think that they run around all day at home, but if you actually sit and watch them, you find that they run around like crazy for a few minutes, then stop and rest.  Then start again. Stopping and starting is their self-management.  If you watch Ounce and her sister at play, you will see that it’s actually quite laid back.

As a general rule of thumb, 5 minutes per month until around 6 months works well.

This means that a 3-4 month old puppy needs just 15 minutes of exercise per day.  That’s hard to do – it’s not much!

Adult dog walking requirements

What does an adult dog need?  I said yesterday that some people walk their dog several times daily in order for it to go to the toilet.  That’s not really any use in terms of exercise, and even less use for mental stimulation.

A fit dog needs at least 30-60 minutes walking per day.  The duration and frequency of exercise should remain consistent and any increases should be gradual. For the majority of dogs, exercise is an important part of their life and so they will take as much as you can give.

Dependant on breed and temperament and mobility, a dog will normally be capable of walking to the same capability as its owner, however as a dog becomes older, exercise should be reduced and your dog should be allowed to walk at its own pace.

Walking is really all that is needed to keep you and your dog fit and healthy, maintaining a good weight.  Of course it is easier to manage your dog’s diet than your own!  But if you provide good quality exercise, you should both be fit.

Factors to consider when walking your dog

  • How much on-lead vs off-lead walking they have – preferably 90-100% off lead.  the more time they are on lead, the further they need to go.
  • How often they do the same walk – ideally they should have several completely different areas to walk in each week and completely new areas every month or two.
  • How often they meet other dogs – it’s great for dogs to have some interaction with others, but this needs to be manageable and stress free for the dog.  Meeting the same dogs on a regular basis allows the dog to get to know others and say hello without fear of attack.
  • What other issues or challenges are there on the walk – are there lots of cyclists and runners?  Can you manage your dog around these?  Do you go near roads? Is your dog likely to run off after squirrels or other wildlife?
  • What breed and size is your dog?  It is true (and obvious) that some dogs do need more exercise than others.  But it is NOT true that big dogs needs more than small dogs.  The big, heavy breeds of dog cannot go for mammoth hikes in the mountains.  Small terriers can keep going for miles, but toy dogs don’t need as much.  Which isn’t to say they won’t enjoy a nice walk every day.

Training and routine are the key

Before you even start walking your dog, you should practise recall training, which I have already talked about that at great length.

Dogs (like humans) really love a routine.  It is important to be consistent.  Just as you wouldn’t run a marathon without training, you can’t expect your dog to suddenly go for a long trek.  Whatever you are fit enough for, that is what your dog can do too.

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.

The Herding Instinct – how do you manage this?

Dog Doc Question 22: How do I manage my dog’s herding behaviour?

Border Collies are bred for herding.  They are part of the Pastoral group of breeds, which means that their natural predatory behaviour has been modified (slightly) to make them suitable for herding livestock.  Wikipedia’s Herding Dog page says:

“The Border Collie gets in front of the animals and uses what is called strong eye to stare down the animals;[3] they are known as headers. The headers or fetching dogs keep livestock in a group. They consistently go to the front or head of the animals to turn or stop the animal’s movement.”

Herding instincts and trainability can be measured when introducing a dog to livestock at a young age.  I was reminded of this when sharing a video to the Facebook page of some puppies with sheep. It fascinates me how confident they are with the sheep and one pup in particular is really keen to engage with the sheep.  Typically, farm bred collies will be put with livestock from a young age and their level of engagement will be assessed.

Herding in pet collies

When we take on a Border Collie as a pet, we don’t want that herding instinct to be too strong.  As Wikipedia says:

“They retain their herding instincts and may sometimes nip at people’s heels or bump them in an effort to ‘herd’ their family, and may need to be trained not to do so.[1]

The herding instinct can be hard to live with.  We had a farm collie when I was a teenager and she would always nip your heels as you were going out.  She was also far more neurotic than our next collie, who was from pedigree lines. I have talked about the nature of Border Collies on the Border Collie Breed information page.

That’s the challenge; have all the intelligence and trainability of the Border Collie, without the nippy, neurotic, herding drive.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  I don’t currently ‘check’ for herding instinct like the farmer in the video – I don’t expect my pups to have it, or for it to be a problem in the homes my puppies go to.  But some puppies clearly do have more of a drive for this than others. Robbie, Ounce’s brother, has been described as having a strong herding drive.

How to manage herding behaviour

In order to manage this behaviour, we first have to realise that it is happening.  I met someone at the weekend who told me his collie was very jealous whenever he made a fuss of his other dogs – this is part of the same pattern of behaviours.  The dog is focusing on you and what you are doing and is very aware of other animals.  He wants to take control, to be in charge and drive away the other dogs.

Other examples of herding include the way a young collie engages with other dogs out on a walk. They might look as though they are taking part in a ‘chase’ game and running around after another dog.  But this will very quickly become a case of the collie trying to drive the other dog and snapping or barking at it if it doesn’t go the right way!  Ounce does this and I think this is what her brother does too.

Once you have spotted it, you can take charge of it and distract your dog away.  As with any training of your dog, you need to be:

  • patient
  • persistent
  • positive

Pay attention to what they are doing and positively call them away.  Engage with them in a different activity and reward them when they focus on you and not the ‘prey’ that they want to herd.

Manage the environment

I think ‘training away’ is the right thing to do when out walking and with Border Collies, this is relatively straightforward to do.  In the home environment, there may be times when it is easier to remove the temptation, rather than have to ‘train away’ all day long.  So if you have other animals, such as chickens, or rabbits, you may find your collie becoming obsessed with watching them all day long, waiting for a chance to herd them.  This might be OK, if you don’t mind them being obsessive and you think the animals are safe.  Or you might need to keep them physically apart.

Cats are another animal that a herding dog likes to go for.  You will need to pay attention to your dog if they think they can herd the cat, and again, distract and reward for non-chasing.  It takes time, but it is perfectly possible for a cat to live happily with dogs.

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.

A Beginner’s Guide to Agility

Dog Doc Question 21: What activities can you do with your dog?  

There are loads of different sports and activities we can now enjoy with our dogs.  Here are some of them:

  • Agility
  • Obedience
  • Cani-X
  • Flyball
  • Gundog
  • Working Trials
  • Scentwork
  • Treiball
  • Rally
  • Hoopers
  • Heelwork to music

Today I am going to talk about my passion: Dog agility

Objective

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

Organisation and rules

Kennel Club and UKA.  Shows are run by these two organisations, which have slightly different rules and ways of running things.  There are also independent shows, which are generally more relaxed and suitable for beginners.

There are 7 Grades in KC agility, with grade 1 being for beginners.  You need at least one win to make progress from grade 1, with things becoming more complex as you progress to grade 7, where your dog can become an agility champion.  An added complication is that once one dog has ‘won out’ of grades 1 & 2, subsequent dogs of the same owner have to start at grade 3.  Which means poor old Luna and Chris both had to start at grade 3 as Luna is my dog and Sunny won into grade 3. Are you confused yet?

Equipment

There are various obstacles to negotiate.  The jumps are usually put at different heights to correspond to the different heights of dog: small, medium and large.  This has recently been complicated by additional, optional heights being added.  Dogs have to be measured before competing.  We are trying to improve the health and safety of our dogs by improving the rules of agility all the time.  Equipment is being changed and removed as well, to improve safety.

Tunnels provide a bit of light relief for dog and handler.  They are fun to go through for the dog and handlers can usually run at them and shout ‘Tunnel!’ and the dog will go into them.  However, if you change direction before your dog is commited to them, they won’t necessarily go through them, as Aura demonstrates perfectly in this video:

Weaves are the most challenging obstacle for the dog to learn.  This is mainly because (for some reason) they have to start with the first weave on their left shoulder, no matter which angle they are approaching from.  They must then go through all weaves (either 6 or 12) in the right order.  Watch Luna miss the last one in this video:

It takes dogs years to learn to weave correctly and they often go wrong throughout their career.  What’s nice about my run with Aura above, is that she does go through the weaves perfectly AND I manage to run past her ready to get her to nip round the next jump.  I’ve only just learnt to do this.  Usually we tiptoe alongside our dogs while they weave, hoping for the best that they don’t come out.

The two runs above were at a show and we were competing in a JUMPING class.  This only consists of jumps, weaves and tunnels, although the jumps can be made more interesting.  There was a wall in the next ring to this one.  Long jumps can also be used, consisting of slightly raised boards.  There may also be a suspended tyre for the dog to jump through. Sometimes a jump is in two parts, making a spread.  Just like show jumping for horses in fact.

Contact equipment, including Dog Walk, A-frame and Seesaw is added to the mix for the AGILITY class.  These consist of something for the dog to walk over with a painted area at either end that the dog must touch.  This is to stop the dog leaping on or off and hurting themselves.  I’ve already done a post of me teaching Ounce how to get ready for the contacts.  Again, teaching the dog to do these 3 pieces of equipment takes many years and endless hours of patience.

Training Classes

So you teach the dog how to do the equipment and off you go, right?  Well yes in theory.  The challenge is that the judge or trainer sets the course and numbers the obstacles and then you have to persuade your dog to do all the right obstacles in the RIGHT ORDER!  In the beginning, you generally only go up and down, with simple, curved turns and minimal changes of direction.  As you go on it gets progressively harder.  You can see from the videos above that by the middle grades, 4&5, which is what we are doing here, the course is not entirely straightforward.  What we usually have are ‘traps’, where the dog is persuaded that something should be the next obstacle, but we know that it isn’t.  We then have to react in time to turn the dog the right way.

I took videos of six of us doing the same run this morning.  It is really interesting to watch these and compare the different runs:

Busy is an inexperienced dog who is still really ‘wild’.  She is also much, much faster than me, so that adds an extra challenge!  You can see when she emerges from the top tunnel and jumps the next jump that I fail to get her to go in a straight line, because she is turning round to ask me what she needs to do next.  We would have been given faults for ‘refusing’ the jump but might not have been eliminated.

Chris and Luna have a great partnership – Luna loves running with her dad.  Chris was focused on getting her into the tunnel at the bottom having seen me go wrong so over-compensated slightly; she goes into the wrong end – elimination.

Mark and Oscar are very experienced and again a great team.  Mark keeps running with great enthusiasm and purposefully gets Oscar to go into the ‘wrong end’ of the tunnel, ie not the end he sees first.  This is hard to do.

Another example of a dog that is faster than his owner!  Elaine handles Django really well, especially considering he is a cheeky Jack Russell with a mind of his own!  She had planned to cut across the corner at the bottom while he was in the tunnel, but a slight mis-timing meant he wasn’t fooled.  She did it perfectly on the next attempt – a great move.

Real professionals at work here.  Smurf is a grade 7 dog and again an old hand.  They work so well together, with Sarah knowing exactly where to go and what signals to give to get Smurf round in the neatest way possible.  Nice job!

Alex and Abi are the least experienced partnership in our class, but by no means the worst.  It is brilliant to see the patience and enthusiasm that Alex shows with Abi and the joy she has in running with him.

As you can see from these videos, there are different ways to ‘handle’ your dog, some more successful than others.  In competition, only around 10% of the runs are successful…

In conclusion

If you want to have fun with your dog, have a go at agility?  I can’t promise trophies and rosettes, but I can promise laughs and the chance to hang out with lovely people.  Everyone is really friendly and helpful, because we all know how hard it is!

NB: It is not always the fastest dog that wins!  

As you can see, agility can be done by all shapes and sizes of dog – Border Collies make up around 70% of dogs competing, but most dogs can have a go.  It can also be done by all shapes and sizes of handler.  I think it is especially great to see young and old, men and women, competing alongside each other.  Of course most of us are not as fast as our dogs, but that is the challenge!

Go to agilitynet for lots more information.

 

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.

 

 

 

Please Control Your Dog!

Question 20: Why should you keep your dog under control? 

Last week two people asked me to write about an issue and they were both relating to the same thing – keeping your dog under control.  I had already decided to talk about this because I was recently told off by someone while out on my walk, rightly so.

On Saturday mornings I walk up river, onto the OU campus, round by the church, across the bridge and into the park.  It’s a lovely walk and easy on a Saturday as there are no cars coming into the Open University.  However, because we do this walk around once a week, the dogs know the way and as we come round past the church they tend to rush ahead, over the bridge.  They then wait for me, usually lying around on the verge or the path.  Once I’ve crossed over, if they are lucky, I throw the ball.  So they wait.

Last week I was on the phone to a friend, chatting away, walking slowly.  As I came up to the bridge this woman stopped in front of me and told me that I should keep my dogs under control.  “They were out of sight of you and my dog is frightened of other dogs.  You were a long way behind.  And it’s happened before!”  I apologised profusely; she was in the right and I was in the wrong.

I could have said “oh but my dogs are under control, they are lying quietly waiting for me and not interested in your dog.”  That is not the point.  The point is that I wasn’t there, so my dogs could have attacked her dog.  Or her dog could have gone for mine and they could have retaliated.

“Don’t worry he’s friendly”

This is the most annoying thing you can say when walking your dog.  I can’t tell you how many people I see ranting on social media about how some idiot allowed a dog to come bounding over “just wanting to play” and getting right into a dog’s face.  Their owner is then astonished when their dog keeps getting attacked by other ‘horrible’ dogs.

Just like people, dogs do NOT like other dogs getting right in their faces.  It’s rude.  So if your dog does it to my dogs, they are likely to get snapped at, at best, or bitten at worst.  In my opinion, that would be your dog’s fault, not mine.

My dogs will never go up to another dog and attack it.  But they will tell another dog to f*ck off, if it gets in their face.  Fair enough, in my view.  My dogs are much too busy running around with each other and having a nice time together to talk to other dogs.  They don’t want to engage with other dogs.  That’s why we are able to go out for walks with other dogs, because generally, they will just get on with it.

The exceptions to this are when one of them is in season, when they might go and chat up another dog.  Or the puppy might decide to have a game of chase with another young dog.

Train your dog away

I have talked about this in the context of training the puppy.  When you have an excitable, friendly dog, it is up to you to keep their attention when another dog is going past.  Get their focus and reward that with treats, or play.  Be more interesting or exciting than the other dog.  It’s hard work, especially if you only have one dog, but it makes the walk much more rewarding for you.

If your dog goes for other dogs really aggressively, you will have to think about muzzling it.  A basket muzzle is a good way to manage this situation, as it means you can let the dog off lead and not have to worry about it the whole time.  The dog will not like the muzzle, but usually they can learn to tolerate it. This is a better solution than keeping the dog on the lead, which is miserable for the dog, hard work for you and can make the dog more reactive in any case.

Managing the fear from other people

This was the other issue raised to me last week.  How to help children cope with being afraid of dogs.  I have already written about helping children learn to speak dog, so that they understand why a dog might be running up to them and how to deal with that.

Once again though, it is your responsibility to manage your dog so that it doesn’t rush up to people it doesn’t know.   If you watch this video I made a couple of weeks ago, you can see that I have taught Ounce to stop.

Why don’t you try to teach your dog to do this?  Run towards you, then stop.  If you put up your hand and say “Stop!” or “Wait!” they should do it.  Say “yes!” straight away then go to them and reward.  It’s a really useful command to have.

Ask me for Advice?

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?

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

When should you re-home your dog?

Question 19: Why would you give up your dog?

We love our dogs, don’t we?  They are part of the family and we will do anything to give them the best life possible.  Just like we do for our children.  Hell, let’s face it, our dogs ARE our children.  Our fur babies.  So why on earth would we give them up?

I’ve written previously about choosing between a rescue or breeder when getting a dog, but that is not the whole story.  The more time I spend thinking about dogs and talking to people about their experiences, the more I realise that there are many scenarios for getting a dog.  Who can judge which is the right one for you?  Only you can do that.

Why would a dog need a new home?

Here are some possible reasons:

  • Death of the owner.  Most people who have dogs want to continue owning a dog for their whole life and that’s fine, but sometimes that means the dog lasts longer than the owner.
  • Moving into accommodation that does not allow dogs.  Again, this could be due to old age or ill health in the owner, but it could also be that a rental property that allows dogs cannot be found.  I do have advice for that, having had to rent a house with three dogs, a cat and a snake!
  • Change of personal circumstances.  Often when a couple splits up, neither person is able or willing to take the dog with them.  They might be moving in with someone who cannot have their dog, due to allergy or the suitability of accommodation.
  • Having a baby.  It is really common for couples to have a dog, then decide to start a family.  The dog usually adapts fine to the baby, although not in all cases.  However, children bring their own challenges and sometimes this means there is no longer any room, or more likely time, for a dog.  A dog might then become jealous, or snappy.

Reasons involving the dog:

  • Bringing in a second (or subsequent) dog.   I have written about how many dogs you should have, but even though it is lovely to have more than one dog, they may simply not get on.  You are then faced with a life of managing the situation, or you can sort it out and move on.
  • Dog breed/type is not suitable for the life and environment provided.  Ideally, this problem should be sorted out before getting a dog, but when you don’t have a dog, it is sometimes really hard to imagine what life will be like with that dog.  (My What Dog? service can help you with this process)

When we have children, all we want is for them to be happy.  We give them everything we have to achieve this, providing them with the best possible home and loving them unconditionally.  Despite this, they grow up and leave home, never to return.  They find a partner, have children and live their own lives.  That is how it should be.

When we have dogs, we also want them to be happy.  We work hard to provide a great home for them and to love them unconditionally.  Despite this, they might need something we cannot provide.  Or they might be happier living somewhere else.

Do you see?  Just because we love someone, doesn’t make us the best person for them.  It might be heart-breaking for us, but not for them.

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you have a problem you would like me to talk about?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think – what is the right number of dogs to have?