Category Archives: Ounce’s Adventures

Dogs and Bikes – Ounce’s first bike ride!

Going by bike: a different way to exercise your dogs?

What do you do when you want to save your poor aching feet, but want your dogs to have a bit of a run on a Sunday morning?  You go for a bike ride of course!  We only do this periodically and always VERY carefully and slowly, but it is nice to cycle round the lake with the dogs from time to time.

bike ride dogWe start by taking the dogs into the park that surrounds the lake, then off we go!  Running five dogs with two bicycles is quite a challenge and you do need to keep your wits about you, but it can work.

Points to remember:

  • Dogs do not run as fast as you can cycle, even a fit dog designed to run fast, like a collie.  You must match your speed to them and pay attention to how tired they are getting
  • Dogs tend to weave around, so you will need to keep an eye on where they are at all times.  I have been ‘taken out’ by Busy cutting across my front wheel as she tore round the corner on one occasion.
  • Be prepared to pick up poo.  I managed to go over the handlebars on another ride, when jamming on the brakes because Aura was doing a poo.
  • Wear a helmet!
  • Make sure you take a bowl and some water if you think there may not be water on the walk.
  • Look out around other people’s dogs.  Dogs are not really that bike savvy, so you must be prepared to stop or change direction.
  • In warmer weather, dogs can wear out their pads on hot paths.  We had this happen to Sunny one summer a few years ago.  She absolutely loves running with the bikes and tears along, so we have to be extra careful with her.

dog bike rideIt’s a nice way to see a bit more of the countryside, without having to take too long.   You will need to  have a good level of general obedience before you go.

Basic commands you need

  • Wait – absolutely essential.  Stopping near roads, or if runners or cyclists are coming the other way
  • Recall – your dogs must come to you, even if you are on a bike
  • Here – I use this, rather than ‘heel’ to mean “be near me” while we manoeuvre round or across something.
  • Mind – I use this to mean “get off the path so that someone can go past”

Of course I teach all these commands before we venture out with the bikes!

Anyway, the puppy had a lovely time and behaved herself really well.  She didn’t seem to notice the bikes at all, although that meant that she didn’t seem aware that it might be harder for us to get out of her way 😉

If your dog has a ‘thing’ about bikes, as some dogs, (especially collies) do), you might find that taking them out with you riding a bike helps them to realise that they are not for chasing!  Failing that, you will need to train them to focus on you while a bike goes past.   This is the kind of thing I talk about in my Dog doc blog.

dogs and bikesFinally of course, if you are going for a longer ride, you will need to stop for a drink along the way at eg The Caldecotte Arms 😉

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and her family and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

Can Busy read?

Are dogs able to read?

Busy the amazing reading dog.  If you follow this site you will know that Busy and I volunteer for Pets As Therapy as part of the Read2dogs scheme.  We visit a school twice a week, working with around 25 children, helping them read, as well as improving their confidence, focus and conversation skills.  We are about to start visiting a second school, which I know they are excited about 🙂

I love helping children to read and to have Busy there makes a huge difference.  She is so calm and gentle, taking her work very seriously.  Even children who are not confident with dogs find her reassuring and patient; they love being able to make a fuss of her and she definitely improves their behaviour.

I read about another Pets As Therapy dog being taught to ‘read’ so decided to give it a go with Busy.  This post has a video clip of my first attempt.  I took my bits of paper into school and amazed everyone with her ‘reading abilities’.    We have practised this many times over the past few weeks, with varying results.  The school have now made me some smart, laminated cards with which to perform.

Best trick ever?

Here is a clip showing our best effort now:

So can she read?  It’s hard to say watching this, isn’t it?  I decided to do a test – could she perform as well with Chris?  Here is the result:

I think the answer is clear; Chris cannot perform as well as me!  Poor dog, getting rewarded at the wrong time and being expected to read upside down!

I think this shows two features of Border Collie behaviour that are very common: patterning and anticipation.  But what are these and what does this have to do with reading?

Patterning

Patterning behaviour is when a dog (or person, or any animal) learns that a particular sequence of behaviour generates a reward.  This leads to them following the exact same pattern of behaviour, in order to achieve the reward.  That’s great, except when the animal is accidentally rewarded for the wrong behaviour, which then reinforces that pattern, not the correct one.  The animal then persists with the wrong pattern, believing that it will lead to the reward.

The first time I learnt about this was during my psychology degree, learning about rats performing simple tasks to receive food, such as pressing a bar.  Apparently one rat accidentally learnt that picking up its tail in its mouth and shuffling across the cage before pressing the bar was what was needed to earn the reward, rather than simply pressing the bar.  (It was a long time ago, I’m sure they don’t do these experiments now.)

Another example can be seen in every agility lesson.  A dog is given a sequence of obstacles and then given a reward (ball being thrown).  After doing it three times, a Border Collie will then continue to perform that sequence, even though its handler is frantically shouting and pointing at the tunnel!

So we see in the videos above that Busy is performing the actions, because she knows that ‘one of these gets the reward’.  So not reading then?

Anticipation

Another thing that Border Collies in particular are extremely good at is anticipating what comes next.  They are bright dogs, able to plan and problem solve.  They very often outthink us, expecting that we will do something, sometimes before we know it ourselves!

That is also what Busy is doing in these videos – I know you’re going to ask me to do this, so I’ll go ahead and do it anyway.  She is trying to please – is it this?  Or this?  Love her.  So not reading then?

 

dog readPattern recognition

And yet… Reading is simply a question of pattern recognition.  We look at a letter enough times to know what sound it makes.  We try to build up these sounds into words, so that we can learn new words.  Then we learn what a word as a whole looks like, so that we know what is says.  We practise, we repeat, until we can read thousands of words and understand their meaning automatically.

Being able to read is a mystic art that challenges many children.  Particularly in English, building a word through sounds is nigh on impossible; ‘through’ and ‘nigh’ being two perfect examples.  And actually, it really is the shape of the word that is important.

If I wtire tihs snetncee wtih the wrods jmulbed up, yuo cna sitll raed it, cna’t you?

(That was very hard to type, with flipping autocorrect on!)

Conclusion

I believe that Busy understands that the cards represent commands for actions she has to perform.  I think she really can tell the difference between the three cards.  She has the intelligence and visual acuity to do this.  However, if I ask her to tell me “which one says ‘sit'” she won’t be able to, because she doesn’t understand the function of reading and doesn’t appreciate that words convey meaning.  Can she read?  Yes she can, but only in the context of performing this trick.  I could probably, with patience, expand the trick to include other words, or we could just play ball.  We’ll see.

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and her family and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

 

 

Exciting recall!

How to be exciting for your puppy – and checking names

Last week I talked about being exciting for your puppy – here is my demonstration!  Ounce doesn’t think much of my first attempt to call her, so she decides not to bother.  When I change my tone though, she rushes over.  In fact I am so exciting that Sunny and Luna decide I must want to give them sweeties as well 🙂

Name Checking

I also practice ‘name checking’ my dogs, to make sure they know their names.

You can see that the puppy is not so good at staying put when she thinks I am not looking at her!  But she isn’t too bad, considering.

I love doing this exercise with the girls.  Can they wait?  Do they know their names?  Can they come, neatly?  Can they then wait again?  I do this exercise with them periodically, making it harder or easier, depending on how well they are doing it and when was the last time I practised.  Variations include:

  • increasing the distance
  • spreading them out from each other
  • calling them in different orders (I started with Ounce as she is the worst!)
  • facing away from them

Finally, I tried to get a video of them going into a ‘down’ from a distance.  This was a poor example, because they are tired – it’s the end of the walk.  Luna in particular was distracted by a cyclist mending a puncture.  You can see that they do go down, but it’s not as quick and efficient as I would like.

Treats

Don’t forget, you must always, always have plenty of treats for your dogs.  Then they will do what you want!

 

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

5 Reasons why you should be exciting for your dog

Don’t be boring!  Your dog won’t like it

My puppy is becoming a teenager!  She is getting into particular habits, some good, some not so good.  One of these is to demand that I play with her in the evenings.  She does this by bringing me a toy and then shouting at me until I interact with her.  How sweet!  Well, maybe.

With a Border Collie, you have to be very careful that they don’t train you to do exactly what they want until you find yourself running around at their beck and call.  Of course other animals also train you to do their bidding.  I have a cat…

Last week I was helping out with some recruitment of primary school teachers.  I was struck (as always) with how often the needs of children and dogs are similar.  We were interviewing a particularly enchanting teacher; she was so full of passion for what she does.  I asked her how she would manage a child who was behaving badly in class.  She thought for a second and then said “Well maybe they are behaving badly because my teaching is boring.  I might stand on the desk!”  (She got the job 🙂 )  Here are some thoughts on why you need to be exciting for your dog.

Catch their attention

If your dog is not listening, it might be because you are not calling them in the right way.  The more often you repeat their name, the more likely they are to ignore it.  You need to say it like it is something you just thought of.  This is much more likely to make them stop what they are doing and wonder what you are up to.

Create focus

If you want your dog to listen to you, they need to be motivated to do so.  When I am out with my dogs and I stop to talk to someone, people often remark how attentive they are to me, while I seem to be ignoring them.  They will all lie quietly and wait for me to re-engage with them.  Why?  Because I have the ball of course!  And the treats.  I know what they want and I know how to use it.

Reward good attention

When they are paying attention and doing what I want them to do, I ‘catch them at it’ and reward it.  If they come to me, I praise them.  This will normally be with a treat, but might equally be with a play with a toy, or even just a bit of physical contact.  I will usually try and use a reinforcing word, such as ‘yes!’ if a dog engages in an activity that I am looking for.  They then know that this was what I wanted and that a reward is coming. If I want them to try and find a good behaviour, I will focus on them and remain still until something is offered.

Set clear expectations

In order to manage poor behaviour, you need to reward good behaviour.  There must be a very clear distinction between the two and the good stuff should be clearly set out and rewarding to do!  I want this! YAY!  Wow, that was brilliant!  I am so happy you did that for me!  The more exciting you are, the more rewarding you become and the clearer you are about what exactly you are looking for.

Practice every day

It’s no good being exciting every now and again.  You need to be exciting ALL THE TIME.  Well OK, not 100% of the time, or you would all be exhausted.  But if you want to achieve good behaviour, then you will need to want it.  And reward it.

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

Should you walk your dog in the rain?

How often should you bath your dog?

These are the two questions I pondered this morning as we went up to the woods, in a cloud.  I found myself thinking how little I mind a bit of rain.  I don’t like it when rain is driving and freezing, or if I thought it was sunny and am incorrectly dressed when it starts to pour.  I might cut off a corner or two in those circumstances.  Otherwise, I go out with my dogs, rain or shine.  In 24 years of dog ownership, I can count of one hand the number of times I have missed a walk because of weather.

Yes, I walk my dogs in the rain.  Border Collies simply take no notice of weather.  They are designed to be outside in this country, up on the hills on the border of England and Scotland, which is pretty wild and bleak.  They have a snuggly, fluffy undercoat and a silky, waterproof top coat.  So it really takes driving rain to penetrate through to their skin.  They absolutely do not react when it is windy, or wet, or cold.

Not all breeds are like this.  Some dogs have a single coat and will become cold and wet very quickly.  Any dog bred not to shed or moult will need to be clipped to prevent their coat becoming tangled and tatty.  Once clipped they should be protected from the elements, because they simply don’t have the hair to protect themselves.

Conclusion: Only walk your dog in the rain if they have been designed for that weather, or you have a coat for them to wear.

Bathing

Similarly, Border Collies have thick double coats which take a great deal of water to soak through.  Once they are soaked, they then take all day to dry off.  I therefore choose not to bath my dogs, ever.  I seriously never, ever bath them completely.  If they are muddy (like today), I stick their legs in a bucket and splash water on their stomachs, to wash out the worst of it.  Then I rub them down with a towel.  That is the appropriate level of care for a dog with this type of coat, in my opinion.  I quite like them to be out in the rain from time to time, as it gives them a bit of a wash, without washing out their natural oils.

Again, with a short coated, shedding dog breed, such as a Labrador, you probably would bath them occasionally, as they will become smelly.  And dogs who are clipped will be washed and groomed extensively (at great cost).  We are obsessed with having clean houses and no offensive smells, so dogs who smell of dog are frowned upon, poor things.

Other grooming

I am not suggesting that I do not groom my dogs, or check them over regularly.  I make sure they have no parasites, (ticks in summer, fleas at any time).  I look out for cuts or bumps, or other issues with their fur.  I check their nails and get these trimmed (by Chris) as required.  I make sure their teeth are clean and that their breath does not smell.

 

Top tip: When your dog rolls in fox poo (when, not if) try rubbing in a handful of tomato ketchup.  Then wash out.  It really helps to remove the smell.  Or get some Fox Poo Shampoo

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

My Treasure – Ounce

The Puppy – first 8 months

This is my 200th post on this website, so I decided to try something different.  I know I thought, I’ll create a slideshow of Ounce’s first 8 months.  However, I don’t have the app, or the expertise, or anything.  This is my laughable effort (it is terrible)

Thing is, the puppy is still adorable, however you look at her.  Someone to love, just in time for Valentine’s Day xx

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

How do you watch TV?

Snuggling up with your dogs on the sofa?  Or not!

This is how we watch TV.  Every evening, we sit down to watch something and the dogs decide it’s time to play.  You can see that Aura is very engaged with what Ounce is up to.  Busy also wants to know what’s going on, but will usually go off and play with her own toy.  Luna usually comes and grabs the toy then runs off with it, lol.  Sunny will take part, but only on her terms.  She won’t tug with another dog, only with me.  She gets really cross and starts shouting if someone (Luna) runs off with something she is playing with.

Anyway, I thought it was a good demonstration of how Border Collies are not the most ‘laid back’ breed!  I am sure that many dogs do love to play in the house with their owners, but perhaps only occasionally, or only for a few minutes?  Collies just keep going… and going… and going…

You might think that they are lacking in exercise and that another walk would be better for them.  (It certainly would be better than Ounce pinging on and off the sofa, which we obviously try to limit!)  You’d be right, I could of course walk them for a few more hours each day – they’d love it!  But then I would have dogs that are even fitter and likely to be even more demanding!  It is noticeable at the moment that Ounce plays during the day far more than the older dogs; that’s just a puppy thing.  More than just exercise though, collies need stimulation – something to think about.

My dogs have plenty of space, both inside and out.  They have each other, so can engage in dog play whenever they like.  They have many, many toys, which they wreck constantly.  And they have me, watching over them and engaging with them, every day.

It’s a dog’s life, fortunately.

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

Pack Walk!

What could be more fun?

Just me, three friends and 15 of our 19 dogs!  We had such a lovely time.

They were still under control, waiting for cyclists..

I wanted to get some ‘posed’ shots of each of us with our dogs.  Hmm, easier said than done. But when you have mostly collies, with a few spaniels and a Miniature American Shepherd, it’s not too difficult!  So great to have so many happy dogs.

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

My Clever Dogs!

Tricks update: look what they can do now!

Thought it was about time I did an update of Ounce’s ‘head down’ trick.  I am trying to create some distance with it, so that I can be out of shot.  The hardest bit at the moment is getting her to wait round the corner.  Oh and to keep her head down once she’s done it.  And I’m still having problems getting her to stop and sit.  So not much progress really!  Never mind, we’ll keep practising..

Oh and then I decided to see if I could teach Busy to read.  What do you think?  This is after 5 minutes of training, so if we work on it..

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

Ounce’s agility training – preparing the contacts

Puppy agility: what can we teach now?

Dogs cannot do agility until they are a year old; we don’t want to damage their joints and it’s better to wait until their bones have finished growing.  However, there is a great deal we can do if we know we want to do agility with them later on.

Wait – teaching a good solid stay and release

This is one of the first things you will need your dog to do.  They need to be able to wait while you get ahead of them.  Many people with slower breeds of dog start with their dog and run around the course with the dog beside them.  It looks so lovely and I am often jealous of this great bonding experience.  Not with a collie!  The faster you run with a collie, the faster they will try and beat you!  They like to be ahead of you.  They have great vision, particularly their peripheral vision, which means they can see you coming!

Therefore, if you want to have any hope of getting your dog round a course, you will need them to wait for you to get a head start.  Fortunately, I have been teaching Ounce to wait since she was a tiny puppy, so her wait is not bad at all.  Of course I need to continue to practice it, but we have the basics solidly in place.

Recall – working off lead and coming back at the end

You can’t do agility on the lead!  So we need to be able to let them off, run around with them and then get them back again. Getting them back at the end of an agility run is a bit different from the ‘formal recall’, but if you have the latter, the former should be straightforward.  Here’s a reminder of Ounce’s formal recall training.

Still not quite sure why I thought it was OK to wear my pyjamas to do this video.

Other moves to teach

Once we have a wait and a recall in the bag, we can start to work on other commands.  These include:

  • round – go around an obstacle and come back to me
  • left and right – yes really!
  • on it – get onto something, ie a piece of contact equipment
  • touch – stand with two feet on the equipment and two feet off

The last two are what I am trying to teach in this video.  I am using this box because it’s nice and sturdy.  I am trying to ‘shape’ her behaviour.  This means I am trying to get Ounce to understand what I want without me having to show her each time.  She is already familiar with the moves and you can see how eager she is to show me!  If you look carefully, you can see that near the start of the video, I reward her for getting ‘on it’ and then ask for a ‘touch’.  She does it immediately, but is so excited that she then jumps at me, so doesn’t get a reward.  I am being critical and I want her to stay in that position until I release her.  So I have to show her and encourage her.

NB: This is the whole of her training for today.  I do not want to spend ages with her in this position because again, I don’t want to put undue strain on her joints.  But as with all training, consistency and practice  are what pays off.  If we spend a few seconds doing this a few times a week after our walks, Ounce will be a long way towards her contacts when we transfer this skill to the field.

Why do we teach contacts in this way?

It seems a bit odd that we want our dog to stop at the end of the contact equipment (dog walk, A-frame and seesaw), with this very specific requirement of ‘two feet on, two feet off’.  We do this to stop dogs jumping off the top, which can cause them serious injury.  All the contact equipment has painted sections at the bottom which must be stepped on before the dog moves on.  If we teach the dog to get down to the bottom and take a treat from ground level, waiting until we release them before moving off, we ensure that they are safe, which is better for their health.  It also stops them being given faults.

There are other ways to teach contacts; a ‘running contact’ is when the dog goes down to the bottom but then carries on without stopping.  If you have a fast dog though, this just means you have to keep running!  It’s a bit of a mystic art anyway, not something I am familiar with!

Why do agility?

The same reason we should do any form of training or sporting activity with our dog – for fun!  Agility is great fun for the dog, they find it really exciting and stimulating.  Generally it should be safe and should build their athleticism, while giving them something to think about.  It can even improve your athleticism, although this is a bit debatable!

There are many different activities you can do with a dog.  It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are spending focused time with your dog, enjoying each other’s company.  If you have several dogs, it becomes even more important that you focus on each individual dog for a set period each week.

Remember..

If you enjoy hearing about Ounce and want more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to write about a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?