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Annie the labrador on the patio in the sun

Annie enjoying the sun

A few months ago Annie developed a strange phobia about an area of the kitchen.  One day she was fine, galumping around all over the place and the next she had pinned her ears to her head, tucked her tail and flatly refused to come to either one of us if we stood anywhere near the dishwasher.

Human logic being what it is (flawed) we initially thought the dishwasher had made a noise and scared her. With reports of sink holes opening up around the country I have to confess to a mild does of paranoia which had me checking the exterior walls for any signs of subsidence but as Little Bear and the Cat were unfazed by the area and our brickwork remained in tact we quickly came to our senses.

Annie’s phobia then spread to a larger area of the kitchen and then the hallway.  By that point we suspected that it was probably the tiles at the root of the problem and tested the theory by covering the floor with mats and towels. Sure enough, with something to walk on besides tiles, the phobia disappeared as if by magic.

Within a week however, the phobia had generalised to any tiled floor, including the one in the pet shop, normally one of her favourite places.  We think the fear was probably triggered by her slipping on the floor and hurting herself – a theory that has now played out as she’s since, weeks later gone on to develop a limp on her front leg.

So it’s off to the vet tomorrow for what I suspect will be another X-ray.  Our poor love, she’s been through so much already I can’t stand the thought of leaving her at the vets again even though I know it’s for her own benefit.  We’re crossing fingers and toes that its a minor injury that can be easily fixed.

Fellow bloggers, hands up anyone who’s been overcome with an absolute burning desire to write a blog post at the exact same time that you ‘should’ be doing something else?  That report you need to finish writing?  Housework to do? Cat needs a bath? (I was joking on that last point)

Right now I should be writing an article I’m planning on pitching to a newspaper but, what do you know? I can’t possibly start until this urgent post is out-of-the-way!  I know.  Pathetic isn’t it?  I’m fully aware that I’m distracting myself because blogging is safe and rewarding (who in their right mind wouldn’t want to write about dogs all day?!) but pitching new ideas to scary editors is, well, scary!

So that my wasted ten minutes isn’t completely wasted, I’ve coined a new term purely for my own amusement:

Blogstraction – the act of writing blog posts as a distraction. 

There. Post done. I’ll just make another cuppa before I tackle that article….

 

Poor old blog.  If it had four legs and a tail it would get way more attention than it’s currently (not) enjoying.  So just to make myself feel marginally less tardy, here are some photographs of our dynamic trio.

Little Bear the mini schnauzer in a smart blue bandana

Guess what I got from Crufts?

 

Annie the Labrador laying on an astro turf rug

Annie checking out the astro turf ‘rug’ we had to put down after she slipped on the kitchen tiles.

 

Black and white cat Camden

Miss Camden Cat. Possibly the most loving cat in the world (unless you happen to be a schnauzer)If 

Little Bear the Mini Schnauzer

Sensitive Soul

Annie’s puddle diving addiction has got her into a bit of bother. During a particularly enthusiastic session in the Forest on Sunday she leapt into what turned out to be more pond than puddle and  disappeared momentarily into the murk.

She seemed nothing more than a bit taken aback by the whole incident and continued her rampaging for the rest of the walk, but by dinnertime, it became clear that stinky pond water isn’t great for the digestion; even the digestion of a Labrador with a passion for snacking from the cat’s litter box…

Vet trip

I’ll spare you any more gory details, but needless to say we ended up at the vets where she had to have an injection to stop the vomiting and a course of antibiotics to fight off whatever bug she’s picked up.

She refused all food yesterday and moved only between her crate and the couch with the occasional detour to the garden for the necessaries.  As my gran used to say, she looked ‘proper poorly’ all day poor love.

Thankfully, she’s on the mend today and is a little brighter. She’s forced down two small bowl fulls of chicken and rice and we’ve even had a few wags out of her so I’m hoping the worst is over.

Sensitive Bear 

As you can imagine, yesterday was slightly full on and Little Bear’s walk ended up being pathetically short, squeezed in between vet trips, supermarket dashes for chicken, copious washing of dog bedding, floor cleaning, bowl sanitising and frequent coddling of the patient  – and that was without the small matter of trying to run a business!

Amazingly though, despite having to play second fiddle to Annie all day, LB was an angel all day. He didn’t nag for food, (even though he had every meal late yesterday) he didn’t nag me to play (which is a nightly occurrence) and even his alert barking was considerably pared down.  When Annie ventured from her crate to lay on the sofa, he didn’t pester her to play as usual, he simply waited for her to lie down and then snuggled up next to her and slept.

Empathy  

When you have a reactive dog it’s all too easy to see the problem: the lunging, the barking, the hair-trigger temperament that means even a hiccupping bubble bee at forty feet can set them off; but in focussing on the problems we often miss something very special: The empathy, the sensitivity and the kindness dogs are capable of exhibiting, not just to us, but to their own kind too.

Reactive dogs are often sensitive dogs and while we work on helping them with their fears, we need to also appreciate and recognise the wonderful upside to their sensitivity.

Thanks LB for reminding me of your sensitive soul.

 

 

Paddy the Lab/Collie Mix covered in mud

Our Pal Paddy modelling this season’s sensational ‘muddy dog’ look.

Mud. It’s the bane of every dog loving household for months of the year, but just like vet bills, poop and hair on every surface bar the dog, it’s an inevitable part of sharing your life with a canine friend. That said, there are ways of minimising its disruptive influence: here are my favourite top tips.

1) Don’t expect your dog to stay clean 

An obvious one perhaps, but if I had a pound for every time I saw an exasperated owner yell ‘NO!’ at their pooch as they galloped joyfully to the puddle or squelched belly deep into the black stuff I could give up work and write about dogs full-time.  Dogs are dogs and therefore blessedly devoid of the worries that occupy our minds like whether their boss will accept ‘I had to hose down the dog’ as a valid excuse for being late to work  or  whether you’ll ever be able to get the kitchen floor clean again.

If you don’t have time to deal with the mud, then avoid it.  Take them on a longer street walk if you’re pushed for time, play with them at home, do some training or walk them later in the day, but please don’t expect to take the kid to the sweet shop and expect them to abstain in the interests of your agenda; it’s just not fair.

2) Prepare yourself  

When we took Bramble, our Springer Spaniel puppy for his first check-up, the vet told my mother to buy good wellies and a set of waterproofs. It was sage advice. Having the right protection from the elements turns a miserable walk into at least a bearable one.  My wardrobe is now well stocked with all manner of weather and dog proof clothing. My only rule is that all outer layers must be washable because even if your dog isn’t a jumper, you can never guarantee that you won’t encounter an over-enthusiastic greeter at the park.

3) Prepare your dog 

Mini Schnauzer Little Bear in a red coat

Little Red Riding Bear modelling a coat that didn’t quite make the grade

Little Bear has soft fluffy Schnauzer fur that clings to mud and knots. Brushing it out is possible, but not much fun for him (or me) so in the winter his legs and tummy are regularly trimmed. It may not be the Schnauzer ‘look’ but I don’t care as long as he’s more comfortable.

Both Little Bear and Annie have coats. Bear because he hates the rain and has fur that gets quickly sodden (at which point he shivers and refuses to walk) and Annie because she has arthritis and has a coat that takes forever to dry. We use their Equafleece coats most often because you can sling them in the washing machine, pop them on a radiator and they’re dry again by the next walk.

I’m often bemused by people who won’t put coats on dogs.  Maybe it’s a macho thing or a backlash against dressing dogs up as if they’re dolls, but for me it’s both kind and practical. If it’s cold and wet enough for you to have a coat on, chances are your dog would benefit too.  You can even get waterproof onsies to cover their legs as modelled by the adorable Louis and Archie.

Bichon's Louis and Archie in their onesies

Mud? What mud? Bichon brothers Louis & Archie in their mud proof onesies.

4) Mud proof your home 

Okay, if I could do this I’d patent it and make millions, but there are practical ways of minimising the impact on your home. As I wrote in my previous post, Dog seeks human, must love mud,  I’m the idiot who chose cream tiles and white walls so when I’m wiping down paint work and the steam mop is working overtime on the floors, I comfort myself in thinking that at least it’s easy to see and remove this way. Admittedly, it’s a small comfort.

Towels: A huge pile of dog towels is a must. A great way to reuse those that might have seen better days, in our house, they live in a basket in the garage ready for post walk rub downs.  Once there’s a machine load they get a quick wash on a cool cycle, dried on the bathroom towel radiator and are ready for their next round. It’s a pain, but it would be more of a pain without them.

Annie the Labrador sleeping in her bed

Annie snoozing in her bed (and yes, white is a stupid colour for dog bedding!)

Bedding: The thing about good dog beds is the fact that they’re usually soft and comfortable.  The way our two pull for home on a cold wet day leaves me in no doubt that they’re looking forward to snuggling up in their nice warm beds. Beds that will of course, be damp and covered in mud within minutes. So having washable beds and or bedding is a must.  Little Bear and Annie love their crates. Each has a thick waterproof base pad topped off with a washable single quilt.  They wash well and dry quickly which is absolutely essential.

Containment: This may be stating the obvious, but restricting access to the rooms you’d rather not get muddy is one of the simplest ways of containing the mess. If you recall the Christmas Pedigree advert you’ll already have a nightmare scenario in your mind of what might happen (it’s very funny if you’ve not seen it) , but remember, humans are usually the ones with the power to close doors!

5) Remember your sense of humour 

Possibly my most important tip of all. Having dogs is a privilege and one of the great joys in life so try not to let a little mud and mess detract from all the good stuff.  And next time your dog is ecstatically bounding through muddy puddles, try it out for yourself, you never know, you might just surprise yourself!

Do you have some top tips for dealing with muddy dogs? Do please share as a comment as I’m sure we’d all love some more ideas on how to manage the mud.  Thanks!

Mud Shots

After my last post, I’ve received some wonderful shots of EVEN muddier dogs than Little Bear and Annie!

Do you have a dirtier dog?

Thanks so much for sharing your pictures. If you’d like to add a mud mug shot to the rogues gallery you can email your picture to thelittlebeardogblog@googlemail.com

Bella the Labrador covered in mud

Queen of the Labrapotami, Bella.

Bella the Labrador wallowing in the mud

Bella at the mud wallow

Bonnie the Mini Schnauzer

Bonnie

Paddy the Collie Lab mix gets muddy

Paddy

Paddy the Lab/Collie Mix covered in mud

Paddy looking proud of his paint job

 

Bichon's Louis and Archie in their onesies

Mud? What mud? Bichon brothers Louis & Archie in their mud proof onesies.

 

Lilly

Lilly

 

Like most aspiring dog owners, before I actually had a dog I used to indulge in the odd reverie about our wonderful future life together.  I had visions of us playing catch in a sun drenched meadow on a warm August afternoon.  I imagined us kicking up a pile of crisp autumn leaves and leaving cute paw and foot prints in the winter snow before heading home to snuggle on the sofa.  

Having grown up with a Springer Spaniel, I wasn’t entirely naive, but I suppose part of me choose to block out one of the not so welcome seasonal realities: Mud.

So long nice clean car

So long nice clean car

Mud magnets

If you’ve not got a dog and you’re thinking about getting one, please, hear me now:  They will get muddy. You will get mud: in your house; in your car; on your clothes and more often than you’ll care to think about, on your face and in your hair.  

You will have an almost daily routine of wiping mud off the walls, radiators and any small children who may happen to walk past. Your pile of dog towels will quickly outweigh the human ones, your washing machine will work overtime and in the winter months, you’ll start grading your walks not on how enjoyable they are, but on how muddy its likely to be. 

Paddling Bear

Paddling Bear

 

 

Who chose the cream tiles?

Our battles with mud are exacerbated by some pretty unpractical home decorating choices.  In answer to the question ‘Which idiot chose cream floor tiles, white walls and a light beige sofa?’ I have to foolishly raise my hand.

In my (feeble) defence, I made those choices when we only had Little Bear and as much as he loves paddling in puddles and rolling in cow pats, he’s not a big fan of deep mud. But then of course, we got a Labrador. 

 

 

 

Annie the Labrador covered in mud

Annie the Labrapotomous

Labrapotomous

Annie is a mud magnet.  She’s the Labrapotomous of the dog world and loves nothing better than getting caked in the stuff from nose to tail.  In the Forest she’ll find the deepest, dirtiest, stinkiest puddle and fling herself into it with the wild abandon of a lemming on a cliff top. She emerges beaming as if she’s just won the lottery and annoying as it is, we don’t have the heart to stop her fun.  But even on a road walk, she has an amazing ability to attract mud and will invariably return home with dirty paws, legs and tummy. 

Adjustments

We’ve made some practical adjustments at home, including installing a new door to give us direct access to the garage from the house.  This means we can bring the dogs in through the garage, avoiding the daily splattering of mud up the walls of the hallway.  It also gives us more room to do the towelling off.

I’d be lying if I said that dealing with constantly filthy dogs is much fun. But here’s the rub: when we took on our dogs it was to give them the life they deserved. And we made that commitment for life. We knew there would be compromises along the way and a pristine home is just one of them. What we get in return though far outweighs the inconvenience and of course, we still have those sunny August afternoons to look forward to.

 

 

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