Archive for April, 2010

No go Bear

So, here’s the story about making the neighbours laugh. 

Little Bear has an annoying habit of standing stock still and refusing to move when a) you put any kind of dog coat on him and b) when he feels like it.

Now the coat issue I’ve come to terms with. I don’t believe in ‘dog fashion’ – they’re not toys or accessories so if you want to dress something up, buy a Barbie. 

I only attempted to get a coat on him because as a puppy he refused to go out in the rain. I’ve stood in the garden before now with an umberalla over him for fear that his bladder would burst before it either stopped raining or he’d get desperate enough to get wet.  Being a delicate little soul a coat seemed like a practical alternative to a shivering, pathetic looking little scrap of a thing huddled on the sofa under five blankets after a trot around the block and a light drizzle. 

Little Bear had other ideas of course.  Coat goes on. Dog freezes. Coat comes off – dog regains motor controls and resumes doing whatever he was doing before the evil dog coat immobilized him.  I’ve tried waiting him out but he has an amazing ability for stillness when he puts his mind to it. 

For the record I’ve tried several types of coat. I even made him one thinking that maybe the weight of a quilted coat was the culprit, but even that received short shrift. He did manage to walk most of the way around the block in it – mostly sideways though and with ridiculous amounts of encouragement and a handful of dog biscuits which meant it took twice as long and we all got twice as wet.  Half way around, presumably in a misguided attempt to get it off or mount a new kind of silent protest, he spent a good three minutes in someone’s front garden doing what looked like a strange doggie yoga pose.  (I can feel a Yogi Bear post brewing).  So we’ve pretty much abandoned the idea.

But the ‘I’ve stopped because I feel like it’ is another matter.  The headcollar is still working wonders, but not wanting to put undue pressure on his face, it does mean that I’m relying on voice commands.  This in itself is quite a  revelation as it’s only when you decide to use a different method that you realise how much you relied on that physical connection down the lead. 

It’s called a ‘lead’ for a reason, but too often we use it to yank our dogs in the direction we want them to go.  I’ve started watching people as they walk their dogs and it’s sad to see so many pulled around from pillar to post, with the lead used as a substitute for giving the dog verbal guidance.  (more…)

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Little Bear had an army of ants in his pants this evening despite a long walk this morning.  From my study I could hear him marauding around the living room, squeaking a toy loudly and stomping his feet on the wood floor as he played football with his tennis ball. 

It’s funny isn’t it? The way sounds become so familiar to us that we don’t have to see the scene to be able to picture exactly what’s going on.  I also knew what was likely to come next.

“Awwweeee!” A frustrated, somewhat muffled grumble which means he still has a soft toy in his mouth.

CLANK. His ID disk clatters on the wooden floor – I picture him, bum in the air, tail wagging slowly. 

“Awwweeeeee!” Louder this time.

Oh no, here it comes….

“Woof!” A sharp snap of a bark and I know instantly what’s happened.  His ‘look at me I’m Ronaldo’ game of football has ground to a halt as his tennis ball has rolled under the sofa.  Next will come more barking and more grumbling and he’ll not rest until said ball is retrieved – mores’ the point, neither will we. 

Deciding to spare Other Half the ordeal of having to lie on the floor and wedge his arm under the sofa, (LB always tries to ‘help’ which usually means standing on your head at some point) I head downstairs, grabbing my coat en route.

Ball retrieved (yes, he stood on my head, but looked like all his birthday’s had come at once when he got his ball back)  we headed off to the playing field for a run about.  His recall is really coming along now and even though he frequently gets so excited about coming back he spits out the ball, he’s coming back which is the main thing. 

I’ve also discovered a new tactic which is working really well as a trump card.  Now Mini-Schnauzers I’m learning have something of a wilful streak – well LB does anyway.  So nine out of ten times I’ll shout ‘Come’ and he’ll come running back to me for a treat or a cuddle without a moment’s hesitation, tail wagging, looking all pleased with himself.  But every now and then he’ll look at me and I can practically see him thinking ‘Naw, you’re alright, I’m sniffing over here thanks.’ 

I’ve tried higher value treats – cheese, fresh chicken, toast (for which he’d do a handstand on most days!) to no avail. So I hit on the idea of ‘Bye Bye’.  The idea is simple – if he decides the treat isn’t worth coming back to me for, I wave, say ‘Bye Bye’ and walk calmly in the opposite direction.  The result is a rapid change of heart and LB comes running up behind me – cue big cuddle, treat, lots of praise and a new game.

I’m suppressing the idea that this is playing on his insecurity (which of course it is), but it’s a trade off I’m willing to make to ensure that I can let him off the lead in the knowledge that I have a reliable recall. 

My rules are that I never go too far as to panic him (I’m also always within sprinting distant in case he took off in another direction), I never go out of sight and he always, always gets rewarded for coming back to me – even if I have to grit my teeth and count to 100!

On the way home, we managed to put on a show for the neighbours which I’m sure has now earned me the title of ‘The mad dog woman from around the corner’.  More on that next time.

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Wobegone Bear

Just a short post to update after our return from Wiltshire.  LB has a new moniker – Wobegone Bear.

In stark contrast to his 6.30 am starts at the B&B and his skipping around the place waiting for a walk with Silver, he stayed in bed till 10am and has the sulkiest look on his little face. 

We’ve aped around, thrown balls, squeaked squeakers and generally made fools of ourselves but it’s raised only what can be described as a polite wag. He even left some of his dinner.

He perked up a little after a long walk and a chance to paddle in the ford but anthropomorphising or not, he doesn’t look half as perky as he did when we were away.  Maybe it is time to find him a friend…

Little Bear on sofa with his teddy

Little Bear

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So here we are in this beautiful B&B, sitting by the log fire enjoying tea in nice china cups and eating fruit cake while chatting to the owner Ginny.  An idyllic scene – had is not been for the hyperactive Schnauzer having a mad attack of the scampers in front of us.

Racing up and down the length of the drawing-room at one point he grabbed the corner of the rug and tried to take it with him.  Thankfully one end was pinned under a large sofa or else it would have been flying out behind him like superman’s cape.

My colour rose. Other half tried and failed to catch him. I started totting up what he might break if one of the tables went flying and if we’d need to remortage… Ginny said calmly ‘just ignore him’.  And so we did until he ran out of the beans he was so full of and came to me, tail wagging, tongue lolling and looking decidedly pleased with himself.  Yes, this really was going to be a long three days.

LB’s girlfriend

Silver, a yellow Lab and Winne, a black Staffie are the resident dogs at Glebe house. LB and Winnie got off to a shaky start. They met head on and both unsure of the other, sniffed, growled half heartedly and retreated. 

On meeting Silver however, LB turned into the class clown. He was like Pepe Le Pew on a bad day.

After a polite enough hello, he proceeded to pull out all of the stops trying to persuade her to play with him.  He scampered, woofed, wagged, stuck his bum in the air, turned circles and licked her face. She’s a regal looking dog and surveyed this display of Tom-foolery with something akin to disdain. Finally tiring of spectacle, she gave him a sharp woof, which sent his whiskers flying, turned on her heel and stalked away.

Undeterred, LB continued in his quest to win Silver’s affections.  Separated by the glass doors of the dining room the next morning he continued his antics while Silver resolutely ignored him – turning her head away every time he approached and then glancing back when she thought he wasn’t looking.

His persistence paid off on the second night though when Silver, maybe worn down by the little upstart, decided that if the only way to shut him up was to play with him then so be it.  So as we chatted by the fire, the two dogs played happily. 

On our walk the next morning, LB made doe-eyes at his new girlfriend and followed her, shadow like, into ever corner of the field.   

For such an anxious little chap, seeing him play so happily is a revelation. He’s transformed. The tenseness around his shoulders evaporates, he becomes animated and full of life, fun becomes his sole objective. He’s like a different dog and it’s a joy to see.

On the whole LB was an angel during our stay at Glebe House.  Apart from forgetting his manners mid-scamper and jumping on the sofa for a split second, he didn’t once even attempt to jump on the bed and after the first faux pas left the sofas alone.  The beautiful linen remained mud free and there were no breakages to worry about.

Despite the incident of the mad scampers and the rug, Ginny declared him ‘the perfect B&B dog’ which really made my day. 

He was really well-behaved when we took him to pubs too.  Luckily, we found three pubs where dogs were welcome in the bar while we ate so we didn’t have to resort to fish & chips in the car as we’d feared. 

There was a minor barking incident on the last night.  After telling the landlords how well-behaved he’d been, he proceeded to woof loudly at all and sundry.  We took him out three times and on the third attempt he decided to settle down.  Luckily the landlords and most of the customers thought him so adorable that he was let off with a tickle. 

Holidaying with your dog can indeed be stressful, but looking back I’m really glad we took him.  Working on his anxiety means that he needs experiences that will build his confidence and teach him how to cope in a variety of situations – and that means stepping out of his comfort zone.  I think there’s a lesson in there for me too. 🙂

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We’ve just returned from a lovely Easter break in Wiltshire. Part recce for a future home, part anniversary present from very thoughtful other half, we spent three nights in the lovely Glebe House bed and breakfast in the quiet hamlet of Chittoe. 

Glebe House

Glebe House

Being thoughtful, other half found a dog friendly B&B so that Little Bear could come too.  Now as anyone with a less than perfectly behaved dog will testify, these occasions can fill you with dread.

It’s one thing having a reactive, frequently disobedient dog when home is only a stone’s throw away, quite another as a guest in someone elses’ home for three full days.

My plan B was for LB to stay with his much adored dog sitter, Sharon.  He loves other dogs once he overcomes his lack of confidence on the greeting and at Sharon’s, would have at least four pals to play with.  He’d get three-hour walks in the forest with his friends and after a long day’s playing, would get to sleep on her bed – something he’s not allowed to do at home.

I made the booking reassured that he’d have a lovely time and that we could have a few days respite.  We’d be able to go out to dinner (something extremely difficult with a dog in tow, especially a noisy one), could go into shops and galleries together and best of all, we wouldn’t have to walk everywhere with coat pockets stuffed with tennis balls, poo bags and smelling like a deli.

Typically I felt slightly guilt ridden – I’ve no idea why as I don’t think he gives us a second thought while he’s at the sitters.  The last time I picked him up he made a huge fuss of me then went off to lay on the sofa with his fury friends and refused resolutely to budge.  I had to carry him to the car. He then sulked all evening and was still grumpy the next day.

Unfortunately though, Sharon succumbed to a flu bug and couldn’t take him at the last-minute. So, LB was coming to Wiltshire after all.

Glebe House

Glebe House is beautiful.  It’s a large cottage that feels like a stately home in miniature.  There’s a grand piano and a roaring log fire in the drawing-room and the walls are covered in an eclectic mix of art and family photographs.  The overall effect is stunning and you get the feeling of being very much immersed in the history of an old English family (the Scrope’s have lived in the area for over 500 years).

En route to the house we had stopped off along the way to explore the local forests and LB had found his most favourite thing in the world – a very large, very boggy puddle of thick black mud. 

Apparently, tennis balls require proper ‘seasoning’ in a mud marinade before they’re worthy of chasing.  Throw him a new, just out of the packet one and he’ll spit it out as if it’s been poisoned and even well-loved ones need topping up from time to time.  So back in the forest he had a wonderful time poking said tennis ball deep into the mud and then sticking his nose in after it to retrieve it tail wagging enthusiastically and stopping here and there to give it a waterlogged squeak.  He does the same thing in snow but that leaves him a lot cleaner.

So, we turn up at the beautiful house with a Mini Schnauzer who’s had a hasty spit and polish to try to remove the worst of the mud caked onto his beard and legs.  As I towelled his feet off for the umpteenth time that day my heart sank at the thought of trying to keep him clean (and off the sofas) for three whole days.  My heart dropped another inch as we were shown to our gorgeous bedroom, complete with whiter than white crisp clean bed linen. 

Suddenly, staying home seemed like such a good idea…

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