Category Archives: Dog doc – reader’s questions

Grooming your dog: Tops tips for a beautiful dog

Grooming: how do you keep your dog in tip top condition?

Following on from my post about the Spanish Water Dog I thought I would re-visit the issue of grooming for a dog.  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.grooming

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 the Spanish Water Dog, Spaniels and Labradors also love the water, so will find puddles and ponds to jump into at every available opportunity.

Moulting coats

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, (as with most dogs) will include:

  • Nail trimming – 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.

grooming

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, or so-called designer dog – 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.

grooming

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.

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £8 +£1.40 p&p and all profit goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!

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?

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?

 

Fireworks and Dogs – how can we help our dogs?

Fireworks: What can I do to help my dog cope?

If you have ever had a dog who is terrified of loud bangs or fireworks, you will know how agonising it can be.   Symptoms include:

  • panting, drooling and whining
  • restlessness and fidgeting
  • anxiety and aggression
  • hiding or scrabbling at furniture.

I remember on the eve of the new Millennium, Buzz was left at home while we went to a neighbour’s to celebrate.  We came home to find he had destroyed a door, trying to escape.  Poor boy!

fireworksIt’s really hard to know what to do.  We want to reassure them, but they don’t really want to hear it.

Ignore it and it will go away

When I first went to training classes with Sunny, I remember being told very clearly “Don’t make a fuss if something scares your dog.  If you cuddle them and fuss them, you are drawing attention to their fear and ‘rewarding them’ for wanting your attention.  Just ignore them and they will realise there is nothing to be afraid of.”

I do understand where this advice is coming from.  If you are anxious about your dog being anxious, they will become more anxious, because they are feeding off your anxiety!  I see this most often when we are out walking and we walk past someone whose dog is ‘nervous of other dogs’.  They have the dog on the lead and are gripping hold of it.  Or they might even be clutching the dog to them – I’ll protect you!  Even if they are just holding the lead though, the owner’s anxiety is being transmitted down that lead to the dog.

It’s a vicious circle; the dog is afraid so you become afraid, so the dog thinks “there must be something to be afraid of” so becomes afraid.  This ‘transmission of emotion’ also happens with horses, as anyone who has been nervous about riding a horse will tell you!  Another example is when you are faced with a dog you don’t know and aren’t sure about – you know that they can ‘smell your fear’.  In fact it is true; dogs (and horses) can smell fear and will react accordingly.

Fireworks – training or ignoring?

Getting back to the fireworks then, how should we tackle it?  If we completely ignore it, we are not helping the dog to cope with it, we are just being mean!  What we need then, is a strategy to positively develop coping behaviour for the dog. There are a number of ways we can tackle this:

fireworks
Thundershirt
  • Provide alternative noise to counteract the bangs, such as a loud radio playing
  • Use a Desensitisation CD for dogs
  • Provide a safe place for the dog to go into, such as a dark corner with a comfy bed or blanket
  • Shut curtains and move the dog away from the bangs if possible
  • Put the dog into a Thundershirt
  • Give the dog medication, obtained from your vet, or buy some calming tablets

The Training Solution

Distraction is a crucial factor in persuading your dog that there is nothing to worry about.  It’s not about ignoring them when they are afraid, as about ignoring their fear – making light of it.  If you can clearly project to them that you are perfectly fine with whatever is going on, in fact you think it’s time to have a game, then the dog may be able to move past it with you.  You need to be convincing!  But if you can get their attention on you and persuade them to play fetch, or do tricks, or even just a bit of rough and tumble, then they are less likely to be thinking about ‘that scary thing’.  So go on, play with your dog?

This works if you are out and another dog goes past.  Thinking to yourself “that’s not an interesting dog, playing with you is much more fun” will help to encourage your dog to ignore other dogs.  They won’t feel the need to protect you.  This also works for bangs and loud noises.

fireworks
This is all a bit boring

Not just fireworks

It is useful to enable your dog to cope with loud bangs, not just for when the fireworks are around, but for all sorts of other things.  Thunderstorms are an obvious one, but also bird scarers, gunshots, hot air balloons, cars backfiring, starter pistols etc.  In fact if you want your dog to become a Pets As Therapy volunteer, they will need to cope with someone dropping something loud beside them.

Eventually, we want a dog who is secure and confident enough to find loud bangs and flashes a bit boring.  Don’t think that you cannot cuddle your dog if they are scared, just make sure that you are not afraid of their fear!

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £8 +£1.40 p&p and all profit goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!

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?

Ball Play – what are the rules?

Ball games: how should you play with your dog?

All dogs love to play with a ball, right?  Not quite.  Most dogs do like a ball, but this can range from being happy to chew a ball to pieces in two seconds flat, to being completely ball obsessed.  I thought it might be useful to consider whether it is useful to have your dog play ball with you.  Is it a good game to play?  And what are the rules?

ball gamesDifferent breeds, different interests

Not every breed of dog is going to be interested in playing with a ball.  If you have read my Breed Blog you will already have seen that different dogs definitely have different characteristics.  Terriers are tenacious and persistent; they will hunt down their quarry and well, kill it!  So a ball probably won’t last that long in their company.  Certainly a squeaky toy is not going to last.  Gundogs and Working breeds are all pretty likely to enjoy destroying the toy more than playing with it.

ball gamesToy dogs are not really bothered about a ball.  They don’t have a prey drive, so won’t bother to hunt something down.  They won’t bother with much, to be honest, as they are designed to sit quietly and be fussed.  A toy dog, such as a Bichon Frise, has been carefully constructed to be generally undemanding.  That’s not to say they aren’t divas!

Any dog from the Pastoral breeds, including the Border Collie, will be more likely to enjoy ball games.  They enjoy chasing something and they like to run around.  So if you fancy a having a dog that will play for any length of time, then go for a dog from this group of breeds.

What is the purpose of ball play?

As I see it, ball games serve a number of purposes:

  • physical exercise – this can be really important if you only have one dog, or if you don’t have much time to go on long walks.
  • mental exercise – waiting for you to throw a ball, watching where it goes and chasing after it, then bringing it back are all mentally demanding tasks for your dog.
  • bonding – playing a game with your dog of any kind will improve your relationship.  The more you play, the more likely your dog is going to want to stay with you.
  • training – playing with a ball can be very rewarding for your dog, so if you want them to work on something, it can be a fantastic ‘release’ at the end.

Problems with ball games

The biggest problem with ball games is that the dog won’t bring the ball back!  This takes training and patience, as with all activities you do with your dog.  It is worth persevering, but for some dogs, they just don’t really get it.  Sometimes a dog will struggle to see the value in the game, although this may be because you are not sufficiently exciting!

ball chuckerAnother issue with ball play is that you overdo it.  This is easily done, particularly if you have a ball chucker.  It’s a great tool for making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, if they need it, but it can easily cause injury and be over-used.

My top tip: Don’t overdo it!

Watch your dog and make sure they are not becoming exhausted, or over-stimulated.  Pay attention to the weather so that they don’t become over-heated.  Make sure they have plenty of time to experience their environment, to sniff and wander. Remember the reasons for walking our dogs?

Another problem with ball games is that the dog can easily become obsessive about having the ball thrown ALL the time.  You are in charge, so you decide when enough is enough.

Getting started

If your dog is not that interested in ball games, you will need to start slowly.  Begin at home.  Throw the ball a few feet away and wait for the dog to look at it.  Click or say ‘yes’ and give a food reward.  If the dog approaches the ball, reward.  If the dog touches the ball, reward.  When the dog picks the ball up, reward.  And when the dog turns towards you, big reward!  The more excited you are about the game, the more likely you are to succeed.

ball gamesAnother problem many people have with ball games is that the dog won’t give the ball back.  This may be because they are tired and don’t want to have to run after it again!  But it may be because they haven’t learnt that part of the game.

When Sunny was a young dog she would bring the ball near me, throwing it towards my feet.  I was at training with her and my trainer told me to wait for her to bring it right to me.  I stood and waited.  Sunny got really annoyed!  She kept picking up the ball and throwing it towards me, then barking at me, basically shouting at me to throw it again.  However, she eventually picked up the ball and put it in my hand.  Now whenever I say ‘hand’ she will do this, albeit rather crossly!  One way to get the ball off your dog is to swap the ball for a treat.

Ball games with multiple dogs

Just a quick word about playing ball games with many dogs.  Obviously different groups of dogs will have different dynamics, but please make sure that your dogs are happy playing together?  When I throw the ball with my girls, Aura is the only one allowed to pick it up. She then drops it for Sunny, who usually brings it back to me.  Or Aura brings it back to me herself.  Occasionally Busy runs past and sneakily picks up the ball.  She will then run in circles until Aura is not looking, when she drops the ball, so Aura can’t find it.  Dogs!

Have fun with your dogs.  Just remember to allow them time to sniff, even when they continue saying “THROW THE BALL!”

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £10 +p&p and £2 goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!

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?

Instruction Manuals: Should a dog come with one?

Instruction Manual for Dogs

I’m not a great one for reading instruction manuals.  Who does?  Well I can tell you – engineers do.  They know how things work and pay attention to the manuals, so they can fix it when it’s broken.  That’s (one of) the reason for marrying one :D.  They are clearly useful, but are they essential (manuals, not engineers)?  Should dogs come with one?

instruction manualsThis morning on my walk I met a couple with a young Border Collie.  Well I say met, what happened was this: I was walking across the field and the dog appeared from the other side, running flat out towards me and the girls.  ‘What a pretty collie’ I thought.  She said hello to mine, who remarkably didn’t mind (they often do).  I waited for a few minutes for the owners to come into view, shouting loudly at their dog to come back.

She’s friendly!

When their dog ran off in another direction after a Labrador, I released mine so they could cross the road onto the footpath I was heading down.  I was aware of continued loud shouting for the dog.  Then I looked round and she had reappeared, crossed the road and run to my dogs again.  Oops!  I called mine back to me and told them to wait.

The couple crossed the road and  were able to grab their dog.  This is what they then said to me:

  • She very friendly, just wants to play
  • Are yours Shelties as well
  • She’s only young
  • We’ve only had her for two weeks
  • We know it will take a year to teach her to come back

They had absolutely no idea what they were doing!

instruction manualsFirst things first

I could have started swearing and shouting (I was tempted) but I tried to help.  I said a few things, including “make sure you always have LOTS of treats”.  They said “She’s not very food driven”.  I managed to find a few treats in my pocket, which I gave her.  She loved them, of course, sweet girl.  “Oh maybe she is food motivated” they said.  One of them produced a huge biscuit which she did eat.  I told them about the treats I use.  These are great for the following reasons:

  • cheap to buy
  • readily available
  • nice and small
  • easy to break into smaller pieces
  • TASTY AND REWARDING

Be exciting!

The next thing I talked to the couple about was how they needed to be MORE exciting than the things their girl was running off after.  I have talked about this A LOT already, here are some of the posts:

instruction manualsOff lead

I did also mention to them that I hoped they wouldn’t start keeping her on lead.  It is a relatively simple thing to teach a collie to come back to you and they are not the best dogs to walk on lead.  Again, I have talked A LOT about being off lead and why it is the best way forward, in my opinion.  But sometimes you need a safety net, and I think that a Long line offer that brilliantly well.

Instruction manuals are needed

The main purpose of this post though is really to talk about taking something or someone on without an instruction manual.  Why would you do that?  It seems incredibly naïve to think you can just get a dog (particularly one that is a year old, and a Border Collie to boot) and imagine that you will be able to manage it.  Oh she’s friendly!  Yes but lot of dogs are NOT friendly.  Once she has been bitten by a few, she will also NOT be friendly.  She will also be snappy and nervous and jumpy.  She may well run off if spooked by something. So much can go wrong!  Not least, she could have been run over this morning!

The key point I want to make today is that BORDER COLLIES ARE NOT EASY!  It’s so important, and so true, that I’m going to repeat it:

“BORDER COLLIES ARE NOT EASY!”

Actually, no dog is easy.  You need help learning about your dog.  There are plenty of people to ask and who are willing to provide practical, manageable tips, but you MUST ask for these!  Please?

Ask for help?

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

Remember..

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

If you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos.

Reactive dogs: how to cope

Reactive barking – what can we do?

I’ve just checked my post on reactivity in dogs, which I wrote in January 2018, and I am revisiting this because it is still one of the biggest problems people have with their dogs.  I did some more work with Aura on this same problem yesterday, because I realised she was getting worse again.  If you want to stop reactive barking, you have to keep on working on it.  It’s hard to be bothered!

reactive barkingI was asked by John about how to stop a dog from barking at everything out on walks.  Their little dog had apparently broken through into a neighbour’s garden and been ‘savaged’.  Understandably the dog was now afraid of everything.  Apparently it barked loudly whenever it saw another dog, or at lots of other things.  This is known as being ‘reactive’ and it is an expression of fear.

Step 1: Recognise the problem

The first step in solving the problem is to recognise that the dog is being reactive and that this is because it is afraid.  It is therefore hard for the dog to relax in any situation where it feels under threat.  This can be stressful for the dog.  Surely it is better if we can solve the problem?  John said the dog had become really reluctant to go out.

Step 2: Decide to take action

This might seem obvious, but honestly, it involves effort.  So there are three courses of action we might take;

  • do nothing
  • work around the problem
  • try to solve it.

There are some problem behaviours that you just put up with, either because you don’t see it as a problem, or because it doesn’t really bother you.  Aura’s squeaking is an example of this – she gets all silly when people come into the house (especially people she knows!)  But we just ignore it, on the whole, because it doesn’t seem that big a deal.

reactive barkingPeople also often take steps to avoid situations that have become an issue.  Unfortunately, with a reactive dog, this usually means that we can’t be bothered to take them for a walk, because it is just too much hassle.  Such a shame for you and your dog!

Let’s try and solve it then?

Step 3: Training to reduce reactive behaviour

My advice to John was to try and distract the dog and get her to focus on him, rather than on the ‘big scary thing’.  This means really paying attention to what is around you and being ready for something to come along, so that you can pre-empt this and act accordingly.

First of all, you need treats – lots of treats !  Grab the dog’s attention before she sees ‘the enemy’ and reward her for ignoring the monster and looking at you.  You need to be quick!

You need to remain calm.  If your dog is on the lead and the minute they start reactive barking, you begin shouting hysterically “Poppy!  Be quiet!  Stop that noise!” and so on, you are basically joining in with the barking!  That’s what your dog hears, anyway.

reactive barkingFinally, I suggested that walks are shortened to just a few minutes, to start with.  It is pointless working on the issue for a while and then getting bored and letting her bark for the rest of the walk!  Go out, work really hard for 5-10 minutes, creating a happy experience.  Then go home and have a cup of tea and a piece of cake.  You’ve earned it!  Short, sharp sessions are much more successful when teaching a new skill.

Practice makes perfect

If you work at it, you will be amazed at the result you can achieve.  You need:

  • practice
  • patience
  • persistence
  • praise

Easy, when you know how!

When I’d given this advice (sounding as though I knew what I was talking about – amazing lol) I got home and found a very similar question being asked on a Facebook group.  With a brilliant video demonstration of the training.

Much better than my efforts with Aura!

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.  This includes suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Remember..

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

If you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos.

Socialisation part 2: Party on

Socialisation part 2: the puppy party

I decided to continue talking about socialisation of puppies; it is so important it is worth banging on about it.  When I send my puppies off to their new homes it is a crucial part of their puppy pack.  I sit down with my owners before they are allowed to depart and go through the pack with them.  I make sure they know that they are aware of the Puppy Socialisation Plan  I tell them what I have done already and what they need to do now.  This includes the puppy party.

Out and about

It seems pretty obvious that when you have a new puppy you want to show it off!  Of course that is only natural.  However, we are always told that puppies cannot go out until after their first vaccination.  Well yes and no.

First of all, puppies are covered by their mother’s immunity, so they should not be vaccinated until they are at least 8 weeks of age.  Many vets are asking owners to wait a little longer before starting the vaccination program, which seems sensible to me.

Secondly, puppies can go to places that are unlikely to be contaminated by dogs with diseases.  So if you are allowed to take your puppy to work and the only other dog there has been vaccinated, you are likely to be safe.

Thirdly, why not carry your puppy?  This is what I did with Ounce, at the start of her adventures last year.

partyPuppy party

The KC plan says:

“Introduce your puppy to friendly healthy vaccinated dogs if you know any. If not, speak to your veterinary practice or your chosen puppy training class – some have days where your pup can meet friendly staff dogs in a safe environment.”

partyVeterinary practices usually run a ‘puppy party’ every few weeks to allow people to enable their pups to interact with other dogs.  However, a word of caution here.  Some puppies are naturally lively and boisterous, wanting to play with everything that comes along.  Other puppies are more reticent, easily feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of noisy, puppies bouncing into their faces.

Just as when dogs are unhappy about interacting with children, puppies can give ‘calming signals‘ to other dogs to show that they have had enough.  Please pay attention to your puppy and understand when he has had enough?  Don’t let your puppy become the party pooper who spoils everyone’s fun!

Other ideas

partyAll experiences need to be totally positive – so if it is a person, they should give the puppy a treat.  If it is an experience (car, traffic, pub etc) you need to make sure you treat and reward the puppy in that environment.  Play a game with him, feed him his dinner there. Socialising a young puppy is easy – as most people you meet will want to see him and will be happy to help!

partyUse interactive toys stuffed with food, to give him problems to solve.  He needs controlled frustration to deal with to continue his brain development in his new home. Introduce him to tunnels, steps, things to clamber over, and different surfaces to walk on.

Being alone and settling down

partyTeach him that part of his new life includes being left alone for short periods of time – or not having constant access to you. Do this from the first day you bring him home. Use a dog cages or crate  or a baby gate to separate him from you at least once every day.  This should be at times when there are positive things happening (eating dinner, chewing a stuffed Kong etc). To start with he should still be able to see you (and so not feel deserted).

partyContinue to use the noise CD that the breeder has been using (or you can buy one from Amazon) to play unexpected noises (if he hasn’t had the benefits of the first 8 week Puppy Plan, start these very quietly at meal times or game times, and slowly build up the volume).

partyTeach your puppy about relaxation, being calm around you etc. This includes being groomed, and being handled around his feet, face, mouth, ears etc.  Remember to reward him all the time when he is still and relaxed. Many owners miss this one in all the excitement and so the dog thinks everything is a game and never keeps still when the owner is around.

partyEncourage periods of quiet time – when he is relaxed and settles down in your presence. Start these as very short periods, using a crate or a play pen beside you if necessary.  Give your puppy something to occupy him such as an interactive toy (like a Kong stuffed with food).

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.  This includes suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Remember..

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

If you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos.

 

Socialisation Part 1: what is it and why is it important?

Socialisation part 1 – why it is essential for your puppy

This is a huge subject, so I am just going to write an introduction and talk about the role of the breeder.  That is basically what ‘socialisation’ means – an introduction.  It means teaching your puppy about the world that it will be living in, so that it can cope with the demands of the human environment.  As the Kennel club says:

“Like human children, puppies are not born with the social skills that they require to live with their family, be that a canine family or a human one. The term “socialisation” in simple terms means the learning process that a puppy must undergo in order to learn key life skills to ensure that it is happy and confident in its environment, and can communicate effectively within its social group.”

socialisationWhen should socialisation start?

We understand that puppies, like babies, are sponges, soaking up everything around them and learning from these experiences.  Historically, we probably didn’t really expect breeders to do anything much to contribute to this process, as dogs were kept in outhouses or sheds in the garden with their puppies.  They might be brought into the family home for some of the time, but were generally left to their own devices.

For puppy farmers, there is no facility to socialise pups before they are shipped off to their new homes.  Farmers don’t expect to have to do anything with the puppies and they may be kept in very poor conditions, with a mother who has little or no interaction with humans or other animals.

However, for responsible breeders, who are doing their utmost to produce pedigree dogs that the owners can be proud of, there is a challenge to provide the stimulation and experiences that the puppies will need in their new homes.

Socialisation plan

The Kennel Club have produced a useful step by step guide, the Puppy Socialisation Plan, which provides detailed examples of things that the breeder and the new owner can do to help their puppy develop.

Here is an example of part of the plan:

Week 5 – 7 – Curiosity: Tasks

socialisationPut more interactive toys into the puppy pen at times when you can supervise. These can include wobbly objects, tunnels, bits of cloth to climb over or burrow under, suspended tennis balls, larger balls that can be rolled about, empty plastic bottles with some pebbles in them that will roll noisily, small boxes that can be climbed on or in, trays filled with stones or shallow water… Anything you can think of to introduce new stimuli to the puppies.socialisation

Once the puppies are eating solid foods happily, feed them from different bowls – plastic, metal, from your hand etc.

socialisationOver the next couple of weeks, try and make sure the puppy meets as many different types of people as possible – women, men, children, people with beards, hats, high heels, hoods etc – and that they have rewarding experiences to associate with them (games, treats etc).

Household life

socialisationHaving heard all the usual household objects, it is time for him to experience them – this includes the TV, vacuum cleaners, ironing boards… anything that will form part of his life as a dog in a busy household. As always, make sure these experiences are positive. Start very slowly with these things not moving or switched on, and reward the puppy with a treat or a game for ignoring them not playing with them. Slowly you can begin to move them, switch them on at a distance etc – always going back a step if the puppy is reactive towards them.

socialisationOn occasions, feed the puppy separately from his mum and littermates – and a little bit away from you (in a crate, behind a baby gate etc). Start to teach him that good things can happen when he is on his own. Also on occasions, feed him from your hand – he also needs to learn that having humans around his dinner is always a good thing.

socialisationPositive interactions

Spend time with the puppy encouraging him to follow you, playing with him, making eye contact with him, stroking and handling him, picking him up and holding him – and generally getting him used to and enjoying human contact. Make sure all these interactions are positive for the puppy, using treats if necessary.

socialisationTry to take each puppy out individually to sit in the car, drive round the block, see and smell things that will be part of his daily life (traffic, trains etc). As he is unvaccinated (although will still have immunity passed to him from his mother) he should be carried but he should have all these experiences in these really important two weeks when his confidence is at its highest and his fear responses are at their lowest.

Putting this into practice

As you can see, the plan is practical and sensible, but it takes time and commitment.  When I have a litter of puppies, I absolutely expect that I will be inundated with visitors!  It’s one of the best things about having puppies; catching up with all my friends, seeing all my family and taking time out of my normal routine to sit and chat.  While cuddling puppies – what could be better!

However, it does take a huge amount of time and effort to achieve all this and to do it well.  Of course I also have to bear in mind the safety and security of the puppies.  I need to know everyone who comes into the house and to take sensible precautions with regards hygiene.  But for me, this process is so important that I am willing to devote my energy to it.  I believe this is what makes my puppies grow up into the wonderful, beloved animals they are.  Have a look at my testimonials page if you don’t believe me!

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.

Remember..

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

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

First Dog: When is the right time to add a dog to your family?

First time dog buyers – when should you do this?

I’ve just been reading about how difficult it is to understand what it’s like to not know something.  Apart from a few years at university (when I had a cat) and then living in shared rented houses (with another cat), I have always had at least one dog in my home.  So understanding the challenge of buying your first dog is an alien concept to me.

This week I have received an enquiry for a puppy, as I do most weeks.  This week’s person said the following:

“I wondered if you had a litters planned or available. We are a family living in London. I have grown up with dogs and we’ve been desperate to get a family dog but we’ve been waiting for our youngest child to be old enough! he’s now 3 so we feel we’re ready! I look forward to hearing from you.”

first dogMy reply was sadly unenthusiastic, as I recommended that she wait a bit longer still.  It is really frustrating living without a dog, I know.  I was lucky enough to be able to take on one of my mum’s, aged 8, when my sons were babies, which was great as I didn’t have a puppy and they grew up with a dog from the start.  We got a puppy when the boys were aged 5 and 3 and it was hard work!  I didn’t give Buzz the time he deserved and he was never that great. He adored the boys, but they completely ignored him and he was nippy with other children.

I have sent pups to homes with children this young, but again, it hasn’t always been that successful.  One was re-homed and one became ill and was put to sleep, which was really traumatic for the family.

When it does work

Despite my misgivings, it does sometimes work fantastically well and the puppy brings joy to the family.  What are the criteria for it being a success?  In my opinion, it works well when:

  • Lots of research is done before getting a puppy
  • A well bred and socialised puppy is chosen
  • The person who is the primary carer of the dog has plenty of time, energy and enthusiasm to work with their puppy
  • Both the adults in the partnership support that time and energy needed and are both consistent with their behaviour towards the dog
  • Children in the household are ‘sensible’.  This means they understand the basic rules for being around their puppy, giving it space and leaving it alone when it is eating, or tired, or just doesn’t wanted to be squeezed or picked up.  See the Children and Dogs page for more details

first dogThe right environment

So it’s not really about the actual ages of the children, so much as their attitude towards the dog and the way that the parents manage this.  My mistake with Buzz was that I didn’t encourage the boys to engage with him.  I should have got them to take his lead when we went for walks, give him a bit of a cuddle or a stroke.  It would have been great if they had fed him from time to time.

That wasn’t how I was brought up – we were taught to mainly ignore the dogs and to leave them alone.  They were just there, part of the furniture.  As a teenager I became responsible for their care, just as I became responsible for the care of my baby sister.

Childhood experience not required

Is it important to have had a dog as a child when getting your first family dog?  Again, it’s hard for me to answer this, because I was always around dogs, they were part of our home.  But as I have just said, that experience was not the same as the experience I have had as an adult owning dogs; far from it.

I think the important things is to be realistic about your childhood experiences and to remember that however much you think you knew your dog, you weren’t its primary carer and were not the one making the difficult decisions.

Managing expectations

I think the main thing to consider when getting your first family dog is to be realistic about it.  It definitely won’t be easy!

Don’t get a dog if:

  • you already have a busy life, with a hectic household, full of comings and goings
  • there are long periods most days with no-one in the house.  You can get a dog walker to come in, but if you have a busy family that is just another thing to manage
  • you can’t agree what kind of dog you want
  • the children basically want something fluffy and cuddly, rather than a biting, chewing, weeing and pooing machine
  • you and your partner sometimes argue about how to manage your children.  If you do this, you will never agree about how to manage your dog
  • money is tight – dogs are expensive!
  • you take lots of foreign holidays

first dogFirst dog, best dog?

Just like a first child, your first dog as an adult will undoubtedly have a very special place in your heart.  And just like with your first child, you will learn from your mistakes.  Is it worth it?  Of course!  Dogs are ALWAYS life enriching experiences – they are the better part of us.

There is plenty of information and advice on this site to help you on your journey, including 10 common mistakes made by new dog owners?

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.

Remember..

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

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

NO! Don’t tell your dog off – it’s mean

NO! Does your dog need to know this word?

Dogs can be so annoying can’t they?  Especially puppies.  Always getting into something they shouldn’t be doing, or chewing something.  Jumping up.  Going to the toilet in the wrong place.  Running off.  Getting too excited at other dogs, or people.  Or life in general.  It’s what dogs do best.  But should we say no to them?

I remember my mum telling me years ago, that the only two words a puppy needed to learn were its name and no.  I also remember days when my sons were young, feeling as though every time I opened my mouth it was to say no.

noSaying No!

I was walking my girls the other day around the lake that I live beside.  A woman was walking her two dogs in the opposite direction, so I passed her a couple of times.  The first time I saw her, the dogs were wet and looking to go back into the water.  She very grumpily told them “NO! You’re not going into the water again!”

A bit later I saw her again and the same thing was happening.  She was telling them off for wanting to go back into the water.  Wtf?  Why would you do that?  Why let them into the water in the first place if you don’t want them going into it?  But why tell them off for wanting to go in again?  And if I was confused, imagine how they felt?

noBe consistent – please?

My lovely new agility trainer, Emma from Beancroft Agility is absolutely right when she says it is not OK to accept one rule one week, but then change the criteria the next week.  Just as for children, we should be fair to our dogs and expect the same behaviour from them if we give them the same commands.

So if you let your dog get away with going on the sofa (why wouldn’t you?) you can’t then expect them to get off for no reason.  Of course if you need to sit down, you might make them budge up a bit, or ask them to get off, sit down and then get them back up onto your lap, lol.

noWhy say no though?

It’s not really necessary, is it?  I went through a list of situations in my head this morning and I could come up with alternative (and more appropriate) commands for all of them. For example:

  • chewing something they shouldn’t – Leave it!
  • barking at squirrels – also leave it, or shh! or use their name.  Ideally in a quiet voice, not joining in the barking by shouting
  • running away from you – “Name of dog, come!”  said in a ridiculously positive way
  • heading into danger – ‘wait!’  Once you’ve mastered stop the dog you should be able to do this easily
  • jumping up  – Off!  Although ignoring and turning away is even better
  • play biting – use a toy instead of your hand.   This is one situation where I might say ‘no!’ sharply, as this behaviour is never acceptable.  But a distraction would be better, or not allowing things to escalate to this point better still.

I hope you have found this post thought provoking?  Let me know if you think there is a situation that demands a no?

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 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!

 

Come here! Some Dos and Don’ts with Recall Training

Come back dog! How to build your recall – my top tips

I’m revisiting this post having seen a lovely 7 month-old Border Collie puppy on a lead this morning.  When I asked why she was on lead I was told she would run off, or chase cars.  I could have punched the owner – YOU ARE SO LAZY!!  It really is not rocket science to get your dog to come back.  Just do some work on it, please?

Of course some breeds are harder than others and not all walks are safe, but if I can walk 5 Border Collies off lead you sure as hell can manage one.  <angry face>.  Here are my top tips:

DO: Keep using treats

Some people think they only need to use treats when their puppy is little.  Why?  I still like chocolate and I’m 55 years old!  If you asked me to do something and offered me chocolate I would DEFINITELY do it!  Sunny will always come back to me, no matter whom I call, just in case I feel like giving her a sweetie.  Well of course I do!  She’s 12 years old but if she comes when I call, she deserves a sweetie.  Of course it’s not very big, but so what?

DON’T: Use rubbish treats

The one in my photo here might not look very exciting but my girls like them.  If they weren’t brilliant at coming back and/or didn’t think much of these treats, I would use something else.

Top treats can include:

  • cheese – mild cheddar is not too crumbly, nice and cheap.  Cut into small cubes
  • sausage – ordinary cooked sausage, cut small
  • frankfurters – I slice up quite finely and then cook in the oven for a while. This dries them out so them are easier to handle and last longercome recall
  • liver cake – if you must.  I never do, but people swear by it: liver cake recipe

Whatever you use, it should actually be a reward for your dog.

DO: Be exciting!

Why exactly would I come back to you if you are boring?  What I am doing over here is much more interesting.  Smells!  Dogs!  Rabbits!  What are you offering?  Hmm, no thanks.

You must be AMAZING!  Look what I’ve got!  Look at my toy!  Do you want it?  Come and get it!  Here it is.. here… or here…  Have a look at the video clip from a post of Ounce on Exciting recall

 

DON’T: Shout at your dog

It’s really not a good idea.  They may never get over it.  Dogs are sensitive creatures; they do not like it when you are unhappy.  If you have several dogs and children, try shouting at one of them (or your other half, even better). What happens?  Everyone disappears!

Yes I know it’s incredibly annoying when they don’t come, but were you exciting?  Did you have yummy sweeties?  Did you offer to play?  Or have a toy?  No?  Well that’s your own fault then.

I’m not even going to mention any kind of physical reprimand.  All that does is make your dog hate you.  Not a top plan.come recall

DON’T: Chase your dog

What a brilliant game that is for your dog!  Yay!  Chase me, chase me!  You can’t catch me though, obviously.  Can you hear your dog laughing?  I can.  Hilarious.

DO: Run away from your dog

Turn and leg it.  Seriously.  This is the time to get on a turn of speed.  And if you can add some excited shouting, such as “Come and see what I’ve got!”  “Sweeties!”  Then you might get their interest.  This is much more likely to work than standing still.  Or chasing them.

DON’T: Wait until the end of the walk to call them back

It’s been a lovely walk but now it’s the end.  Oh you’re not tired and you don’t want to go home yet?  Well too bad, I’m in charge.  Or am I?  When I’m walking the puppy on her own, I might call her back to me twenty times during a 20 minute walk.  These days, walking her with the pack, I only call her back to me 10 times per walk.  “Ounce come”.  Be excited to see her.  Give her some praise.  Feed her a sweetie or two.  Every day, every walk.  She automatically comes to me at the end of the walk.  It’s no big deal.

DO: Use a clear, simple command come recall

“Ounce come”.  Don’t stand still repeating the dog’s name over and over again.  You sound like a wally.  (Unlike when you are running away, shrieking in excitement, when you look AND sound like a wally.)   The more often you say the dog’s name, the less likely they are to wonder what you want.  Be clear, be positive, be firm (but not boring).

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 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!