Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Dogs’

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.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Mini Schnauzer Little Bear takes a break out on a solo walk

Little Bear takes a break during our solo walk

If you have more than one dog, chances are you probably walk them together.  I actually still recall the “Walking two dogs is no more work than walking one” argument I used as part of my case for a double dog household.  Oh foolish fool, how wrong could I have been?!

The reality is, if you have reactive dogs like ours, combined walks can sometimes do more harm than good.

Tipping point

Just like us, all dogs have a tipping point. Now for your laid back, confident pooch the circumstances needed to reach that tipping point might never ever arise but for the nervous, under-confident dog the line between calm, rational thought and an emotional, amygdala driven outburst is always that much finer.

In the fourteen years we had our beloved Springer Spaniel, I only once saw him aggress and that was when a Rottweiler  jumped into our garden and cornered him in the yard. Even our sweet old gent found his tipping point that day and acted to defend himself much to our utter amazement.

For reactive dogs like Bear and Annie, their equivalent of a Rottweiler over the garden wall can be as seemingly benign as a dog on a lead 300 yards away. Through an unfortunate mix of temperament, experience (and lack of it), they see threats where there are none.  But when they bark and lunge, it’s out of the same fear my old Springer felt all those years ago, it’s just that their tipping points aren’t as obvious to us.

A life lived in fear

They say a life lived in fear is a life half lived and this can certainly be the reality for many dogs. On Little Bear’s scary list were: bikes, skateboards, other dogs,  horses, velcro (?!) and thunderstorms to name but a few.  A walk invariably encountered at least one of the things and so for a long time, practically every trip out of the door would mean he’d end up in a frenzy of fearful barking and lunging.

Positive reinforcement 

Over the years we’ve worked to raise his tipping point to a more comfortable level.  Armed with clicker and treats (and a swift and unapologetic about turn if we spot something that I know he won’t cope with) we’ve slowly built up his tolerance to the point that he can now see a dog across the street and remain calm enough to sit and get a treat for his non-reaction.

Bikes and skateboards no longer get a second look thanks to the same positive reinforcement and he can walk past a field of horses without batting an eyelash. That said, he has learned to flutter them a little in the hopes of a reward when he thinks he’s been especially good.

The key to the training has simply been to encourage him to feel differently about the things he was once afraid of.  Get rid of the fear and the over-reaction just isn’t necessary anymore.  Which brings me on to the need for solo walks.

Going solo

Part of the ethos of positive reinforcement is that dogs are alway set up to succeed. Considering his naturally anxious disposition, Little Bear has achieved a lot over the last few years which is why asking him to be cool, calm and collected while his best friend Annie is freaking out by his side is really a bridge too far.

So, as much as I love walking my dogs together, until he and Annie are at a similar level in terms of tipping points we’ll continue to walk them separately as often as we can. The good news is that judging by Annie’s progress, she’ll not be far behind him.

Read Full Post »

Little Bear finds a shady spot

Little Bear finds a shady spot

When it’s hot its hard to keep dogs properly exercised without the risk that they’ll over-heat. Little Bear especially finds the warm weather quite tough and although he knows his limits, it still leaves us with a problem: One very bright, very active little dog who has no outlet for all his get up and go.  As we know ourselves, being happily tired after a good workout is very different to the lethargy that sets in when it’s just too hot to move.

Putting the fun back 

So this morning , before the day had chance to hot up, we booked the local agility course with a friend of ours. LB has done agility before. We had a couple of one-to-one lessons and then joined a group class. Given his anxiety levels, the group class was incredibly challenging, but he coped admirably and seemed to forget about the other dogs once he was doing the course.

Teaching resilience

He’s loved agility from the off and proved that although he wasn’t built for speed or endurance, he’s a brave little chap.  To my utter amazement he tackled a full height A frame on his first ever session (see the video here).

Taking a break at the end of the session

Taking a break at the end of the session

I was reminded of this today as he lost his footing on the walkway but pressed on regardless. Then again when he misjudged a jump and took a tumble. He picked himself up and with a bit of lighthearted encouragement took the same jump again and again as if to prove it hadn’t beaten him.

 Building confidence

Nervous dogs usually lack confidence and depending on their temperament, use either aggression or retreat (fight or flight) as their only means of coping with the things that scare them.  Watching LB face his fears today and overcome them so swiftly was a timely reminder of how I need to be constantly finding ways to build his confidence and boost his resilience. The other bonus is that before the sun had had a chance to take too much of a hold, Annie and Bear were back home, happily tired, mentally stimulated and quickly snoozing.

Read Full Post »

Where's Bear?

Where’s Bear?

With the warm weather persisting, walking the dogs has become an exercise in trying to dodge the heat. We were lucky today because the morning stayed cool right up until lunchtime but even so, Little Bear still needed to take some time out to have a rest.

His favourite medium of choice is clover, which of course prompts a swift chorus of ‘Roll me over in the clover’ from yours truly, but failing that, he’s quite partial to some long grass.  He disappeared so completely into it this morning that it took a while to find him. If he keeps this up I’ll have to start a Schnauzer version of Where’s Wally.

The clover shot is for pure cuteness.

Clover Bear

Read Full Post »

Hot dogs

20130707-162613.jpg

20130707-162631.jpg

The UK is currently enjoying a rare and much needed heat wave. After a wash out summer last year and what felt like a perpetual winter, to be able to bask in temperatures hovering around 28 degrees is a special kind of delight. That is, unless you’re a dog.

Annie has approached it as she does most things, with an accepting wag. Little Bear on the other hand is just short of writing to his MP to complain. He hates the heat and I’m sure is dreaming of snow, (the only sort of weather he seems to enjoy) in those foot twitching, lip quivering sleeps only dogs seem capable of.

In an attempt to cheer him up I gave them a frozen Kong stuffed with dog food. Annie got the idea right away while Bear was a little more perplexed bless him.

Read Full Post »

Little Bear the dog snoozing

Little Bear snoozing

The good news is that after frightening us all half to death, Little Bear is making a good recovery. A third X-ray on Saturday revealed that things were moving as they should be through his intestine which rules out any kind of obstruction and as he was eating and generally brighter he was allowed home on Saturday afternoon!

He’s not yet back to his old self, but compared to the pitiful little dog we took to the emergency vet on Wednesday night, he’s miles better.  We took him on a short walk yesterday evening and although he enjoyed his runabout, he abruptly ran out of steam meaning I had to carry him part of the way home.  I swear I started off carrying a Mini Schnauzer and ended up with a Newfoundland by the time I reached the front door!

He’s still taking antibiotics and has easy to digest prescription food until we get the results of the blood work back in a few days. So we’re taking it easy, letting him sleep as much as possible and generally just keeping an eye on him. The most important thing is that he’s here, he’s well and he’s getting better by the day.

Read Full Post »

Annie & Bear under the (fake) mistletoe

Annie & Bear under the (fake) mistletoe

At the weekend, during a half-hearted attempt at Christmas shopping I made one purchase that I was particularly tickled with.  It was a bunch of felt mistletoe. Now I know this might not be everyone’s idea of a top buy, but since I’ve had dogs I won’t buy mistletoe as the berries are poisonous.

I said as much in passing while chatting to the sales girl and she was absolutely horrified, hastily explaining that she had a new puppy and had no idea about things that might be harmful.

Cue crazy dog lady who then felt compelled to then hold up the queue listing all of the things that are potentially fatal to dogs and especially curious puppies…

Irresponsible advertising

It’s a topical point as a battle royal rages between the dog loving world and Morrison’s supermarket who’s Christmas advert shows a dog being fed Christmas pudding.

Raisins are incredibly toxic to dogs and even a few can cause fatal renal failure, a fact that their PR department is bizarrely trying to deny despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

There’s little excuse for large corporations to get it so wrong, even less for such a puerile stance when their error is pointed out to them, but we can be more generous to the innocent dog lover, who, like the young girl in the shop simply didn’t know.

Spread the word

So if you want to help dogs this Christmas, please spread the word that lots of everyday food stuffs and some of the plants we decorate our homes with at this time of year are potentially fatal to dogs.  It’s even more important when we welcome friends and family into our homes who may not have dogs.

One of Little Bear’s Bichon friends was fed four After Eight mints as a puppy by a visiting toddler and spent two ‘touch and go’ days at the emergency vet as a result.  Had he not had such a clued up owner or fur incapable of hiding chocolate stains, he may not have lived to tell the tale.

Here are some of the common ones, but Dog’s Trust do a more comprehensive list that’s worth a ‘cut out and keep’ and sticking to the fridge alongside the emergency vet number, just in case.

Avocados

Apple pips

Apricot kernels

Aloe Vera

Antifreeze

Chocolate

Raisins

Grapes

Holly berries

Kale

Mistletoe

Onions

Poinsettia

Xylitol (a sweetener found in low-calorie foods)

You can follow the Morrison’s story via the ‘Morrison’s Christmas Pudding TV Ad could Kill’ Facebook page

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: