Friday, 28 November 2008

Are chocolate labradors the secret to fertility?

So this last couple of weeks, we have had 4 human baby births and all the parents have chocolate labradors!!
How weird is that?
We thought there might be something in the tea at Elton Dog Club but one of them is a one to one customer.
So congratulations to Debbie and James with baby Harper James, Alan and Beth with baby Isla, Karen and hubby with baby Oscar, Gary and Al with baby Charlie who arrived last night.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Breaking and entering with a Whippit

So what a day, when you live with a polish lowland sheepdog life is never dull!!

Snoopy IS certainly ‘special’

I got up normal day walked 6 dogs and did 2 hours behaviour work at the RSPCA. Got in about 3.30pm, piled the dogs into the car and went to the park. They had a good run round and then I did some training. I worked them together for a while on the car park. Both dogs were great. Dinky is doing nice left circles. I’m very proud and her heelwork is really nice now.

I headed back to the car and thought I’ll do some more work with Dinky using the whippit. Those of you that don’t know what a whippit is, it’s a horses lunge whip with a toy tied to the end. You get them from Learning About Dogs and they are used to teach control. I use it to motivate Dinky as she loves to chase things. This gets her really motivated.

So I put Snoopy in the car, chucked in the leads, toys, my bag and keys and got out the whippit

We played for a bit and then did some heelwork. I was thinking Dinky is fab and then suddenly I heard Beep, Click

Oh no, that wasn’t the car locking was it, it can’t be, oh please that did not just happen!!I walked back to the car and Snoopy is stood on the seat on my keys. Noooooooooooo. I lifted the handle and it was locked.

Ok keep calm think, phone, it’s in the car, money, it’s in the car, dog lead, it’s in the car, house keys, in the car. Arrhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

So I have a leonberger (with no lead) 2 poo bags, a handful of liver cake and a slobbery wet dog toy tied the end of a bloody horse whip. Great!

Snoopy is sat innocently looking at me inside the car. I looked at him shaking my head and said ‘you have no idea do you’

It’s now 10 past 4 and the park gates are locked at half past.

So I’m luring Snoopy about from outside the car to get him to stand on the keys again hoping he might accidentally unlock the car but he just kept setting the alarm off!! Its just not going to happen is it?

So try something else, I know phone my mum. There is a bloke walking into the park with a small dog. I stop him and say. ‘Excuse but my dog has just locked itself in the car with my keys in it and I need to ring somebody, could I borrow your phone?’

Quite understandably (I do live in Manchester) he says sorry I left my phone at home. Then his phone beeps in his pocket (how very funny)He says ‘oh I’ve got it with me, I thought I left it at home and hands it to me’. I ring my mum and she is not in so I leave a message, ‘Mum if you get this message in the next 20 minutes can you come to the park, I’m in the car park’.

The guy then comes over to help (now he’s realised I’m telling the truth however ridiculous it may have sounded and I’m not going to steal his phone!!)

I’m now thinking to myself, time is running out fast and which window would be the cheapest to replace!!!Snoopy is still looking vacantly at me from inside the car with that dumb Jim Henson creature look on his face.

The side window had a fastening missing and you can actually prise it open a bit. My plan now is slide the whippit in and try and hook the keys on it. I held the window while the bloke pushed the whippit in the gap. Id also had to explain that I don’t horse whip my dogs and it’s actually a toy!!!He managed to get the keys on the end, hurrah………. but they just slid off with the weight. Damn it!!

Then the next thing there is a popping crunchy type of noise, the glass shattered. The guy started apologising. I really didn’t care by this point. I’d got my keys and was able to get out of the park before it shut. I moved Snoopy safely to the front of the car away from the glass, thanked the guy and drove home.

When I got in I rang the company I bought the car, a Japanese Import off and asked if they could get me a new window as I had smashed it. He said ‘Jane why did you smash that one! I explained and he said ok I understand, but a front passenger window would have been cheaper. I told him he needed customers like me when there is a credit crunch. A new window is £115 + vat.

So lesson learnt, don’t leave your keys in the car no matter how much you think it is unlikely the dog will stand on the lock button on the key fob and lock the car, Oh and teach Snoopy to retrieve keys.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Mud, Sticks and Cake

I'm very pleased with myself, I had this weeks assignment completed by Tuesday this is not like me at all.
I’ve done lots of dog walking this week and 1 behaviour case. My puppy classes are full till next year. The only downfall to classes being busy is you have to turn people away and they get a bit upset because you can't accommodate them.

On Wednesday the RSPCA were understaffed so they didn’t need me for training. As I was free I went and helped instead. I exercised all the dogs. I was caked in mud when I left and I smelt really really bad but I felt great!

I have bought a stand alone target stick and my dogs think it is the most amazing thing ever. They already love targeting, I think Snoopy might break it though, he got really excited when he touched it and it bounced back on his nose. Must take it to club tonight for my advanced class to have a play with it.
I have also got the Learning about dogs 'Dances with dogs' book so will be getting on with that this weekend I think. Stuff the house work!!
Snoopy seems to have lost the plot at the moment and gets too excited. Ive been teaching Dinky to cross her paws and she seems to be getting that.

I made some liver cake the other day but it was really crumbly, think I need more eggs. Im obviously not a cakey bakey type of woman. However give me a piece of steak to fry or a joint to roast and you'd be impressed.
Three Classes tonight so must go and prepare.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Busy Week

Last Tuesday we went to Mypetstop in Denton to a cabaret Evening with Mary Ray. I have few videos and books of Mary but this was the first time I attended a demonstration. Stewart the trainer at my club came and one of our members with her friends.
It was great Mary covered heelwork to music, obedience and a bit of contacts for agility. She is very entertaining and got some good ideas to help with some problems I’m having. One is getting Dinky to use her backend so we can do decent left turns, the other is getting the trot while I’m walking. Dinky does a beautiful dressage move at fast pace but she just walks when I walk. I’m really thinking about doing Heelwork to Music with Dinky for my advanced dog training next year. I bought Mary’s new book ‘Superdog’ and 6 targets sticks for dog club.

Friday I completed my assignment on genetics and covered von Willebrands Disease in Dobermanns. I got some really interesting information by analysing the health scheme results. Will maybe cover that in more detail another day.

Saturday I was planning draught training with Dinky, but had far too much house work and dog club stuff to catch up on. How boring!!

Sunday we had a club dog walk in Phillips Park, it was muddy and wet, but a great time was had by all. I think many people who live in North Manchester don’t realise what great green space we have on our doorstep.
The dogs love it and its great watching how different breeds with different drives interact as a group. We had 2 collies, a Leonberger, a German Shepherd, a Swedish Vallhund, a Springer, a polish lowland and a cross breed. I managed to get some pictures this time. We are planning a trip to Hebden Bridge and Hardcastle Craggs for the next one.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Weekend at College

I’m back home and recovering from my weekend college sessions. I drove over to Hull on Saturday Morning with Dinky my Leonberger. We arrived on time and started the day with coffee and catching up. Our first session was canine systems, then off to do some practical handling and teaching for the Organising Classes and Instructing Module. We have a practical assessment in January, so this was an opportunity to prepare and practice. We took turns in handling, observing and teaching. It’s really hard teaching your peers!! You feel like your being judged all the time but we were all very nice and supportive to each other.

At the end of the day we decided to take the dogs onto the racecourse for a run. One of my fellow students got her 4 wheel drive stuck in the mud and we pushed her out. I never thought two girls could move a truck but we did.

Then back to the B&B. Not only was I mentally drained but physically too. My fellow student we had pushed out of the mud knew where the B&B was so said I could follow her, but in all the stress of getting out of the mud, she flashed me out in front of her. I pulled out and set off as far as I knew. After I drove round the roundabout twice with her behind me, she must have remembered I didn’t know where I was going and over took me.

Eventually back at the B&B we had pizza, wine and long chats about dog stuff and course work and what we have been up to.

I had ordered 3 DVDs from my tutor and took the lap top so I could watch them on the Saturday night. When I got to my room and logged on the DVD player needed a decoder. There was broadband access so I logged on and downloaded a decoder for £10. Little did I know that a £100 cash withdrawal in the morning and a late night internet transaction to Luxembourg would scare the fraud department and they the put a caution on my card.
In the morning checking out, I couldn’t pay for the room on my card, how embarrassing, thank god for my flexible enemy!!
Sunday was much of the same, lectures and practical handling, then the boring drive home. The M62 was busy and it was chucking it down.

We have to start our advanced dog training in January, so I need to get thinking about what activity to do and with which dog.
I’m thinking
Heelwork to Music with Snoopy or Dinky (They both like tricks and Dinky loves targeting, Dinky would be the less typical breed for this, I’d have to forget leg weaves!!)
Working Trials with Dinky. I like this but it’s hard to motivate Dinky with the control exercises, but I like the challenge.
Water Rescue with Dinky. The problem with this is its seasonal and I can’t really practice at home, but she loves it, it’s all about natural drives, no clicks or treats required)
Anyway I’m off to see Mary Ray at one of her Cabaret Evenings Tomorrow to see what I think of HTM

Monday, 27 October 2008

Bonfire Night - Keeping your pets safe

It’s that time of year again that all the pet owners dread. Bonfire night

If your dog suffers from fear of fireworks it is worth considering guidance from a behaviourist who can create you a desensitisation program for your pet. To be done properly this takes time and you may want to consider doing this in the next few months ready for next year.

Here are some tips for helping reduce anxiety and stress and preventing incidents caused by Fireworks

• There are several remedies on the market that you can get for your pets from the pet shop and the vets that can help reduce anxiety and stress caused by fireworks
• Keeping your pets indoors after dark
• Make sure your dog gets a good walk before dark. This will elevate their general mood state.
• If your dog is scared of Fireworks, keep them on a lead. Loud bangs can trigger a flight response and they can bolt, many dogs get lost during this time of year.
• Make sure your dog is wearing an Identification Tag at all times. This should be your surname, address and phone number.
• Keep curtains closed, and the TV or Radio on to disguise the noise.
• Stay in with your pets.
• Don’t confine your pet to one room. Fear can trigger a flight response and your pet will feel better if they can move about.
• Do fun things such a playing with toys and problem solving games to keep their minds off what’s going on outside.

Friday, 24 October 2008

The Regulation of Animal Training

The Companion Animal Welfare Council is currently looking into regulation of Dog Training. A report was released recently by CAWC with recommendations. The CAWC report can be viewed here

Currently there is no regulation and anybody can set themselves up in businesses and call themselves a dog trainer, behaviourist, whisperer or listener. There is also a wide variety of prices too.

Until there is regulation all I can say is buyer beware.

Dog Training
When looking for a training class. Look for clicker trainers or ones that use food and toys. Go and have a look first. One bad experience for your dog may take months or years to rectify.

Puppy Training
Badly run Puppy socialisation classes cause behaviour problems. These are the most important weeks of your puppy’s life and these should be taken by experienced instructors. Letting the learner instructors take a puppy class shows the head instructors lack of understanding of the importance of getting it right at this time.
Some socialisation classes are just training classes with puppies in and there is not much if any socialisation going on at all.

Dog Behaviour
All dog trainers should have a basic understanding of dog behaviour but if your dog has behaviour problems then the chances are a class is not the ideal environment for your dog.
I would recommend if your dog has behaviour problems then seek the advice of a qualified behaviourist, meaning they have recognised certificates and/or University Qualifications. Behaviour is a science and should be studied.

What is reward based training
Choices of which methods you use show your consideration of the mental well being of your pet.
People and some trainer’s perception of what reward based training is can vary a great deal.

Dogs being checked on half checks, choke chains or pinch collars for pulling on the lead is not reward based training.
Rattle Cans/Bottles are not reward based training
Water Sprays are not reward based training
Spray, remote or electric collars are not reward based training
Scruffing or alpha rolls are not reward based training
Throwing chains at dogs is not reward based training
These are very ‘old school’ methods and the more current kind methods work better and take into consideration the mental wellbeing of the animal. These old school methods remind me of how years ago bears dancing was acceptable. It saddens me that dogs are still allowed to suffer in the name of dog training.

Also be aware giving a few random treats during a class is poor reward based training
Reward based training is where the good behaviour is reinforced using timing methods that have been extensively studied over many many years. The triggers/motivators of the bad behaviour are identified and removed, an alternative is then offered and taught. This means the animal does not suffer any pain, or fear and can learn effectively without stress. Most importantly the animal still feels it has some control of its life.

Qualifications and Membership
Look to see if the trainer has any qualifications or memberships and what these organisations criteria are. There are some out there that only require payment of membership. Some have their own courses that anyone could pass, some are just theory. Others only give a few weeks training and you can declare yourself an expert!!
The CAWC report gives an overview of the main organisations and how they work and details of the courses trainers can do. You should know what these letters mean after peoples names, before you buy into them and put your pet under their supervision.

Years of Experience
There are some excellent trainers out there with no formal qualifications but have been on many seminars, training days and are very good at training dogs. There are others who have trained for years and have always been rubbish at it and still are.

Hobby Clubs
Some clubs are run by people who like dogs, have a bit of experience in training and enjoy it. These people may not have the ability to work outside of the box when something doesn’t go to plan and can address a issue in a highly inappropriate manner. These trial and error situations can be at the expense of your dog. A puppy was recently seriously injured on a choke chain by a hobby dog trainer.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

A Day with Wolves

We set of on Friday Afternoon to make the 200 mile journey down south to the Wolf Conservation Trust. There was me, my partner Jon and Stewart who trains at my dog club with me. The day was organised by Kirsty Peake, who is a tutor for The Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE). The day was arranged as part of the COAPE Wolf Behaviour Course. I was invited to attend as I am a member of COAPE.
We arrived at the Travelodge around 6.30pm and checked in. We decided to grab some tea at the services. Expensive!!!
Then we set off to find some alcohol. Luckily we found a shop and had to get screw cap wine as no one remembered a bottle opener.
The next morning we got up and set off towards the trust, hoping to find somewhere for breakfast on the way. Max’s cafĂ©. This is a proper truck stop, you can't see out of the windows because of the grease. I had deep fried sausages on a muffin ugh. I decided to give the brown sauce a miss, as it swished around in the bottle when I picked it up!! I was already feeling a bit queasy about meeting wolves, this breakfast certainty wasn’t helping settle my stomach.
We found the trust and immediately saw the wolves in their compound as we pulled up. I thought they would have been bigger that they were.
They began to howl, this is a really eerie sound when you hearing it for real and after watching dog soldiers 2 nights before.

The day started with an introduction and about the trust, the work they do to keep wolves in the wild in Europe and the wolves they have there by Toni Shelbourne of the wolf trust. We then got the opportunity to see the wolves in their compounds. The wolves are hand reared and socialised and behave quite dog like around the trust handlers. Stewart took millions of photos!
We went back and Kirsty did a presentation on the history of Yellowstone and the re-introduction of wolves into the park. Kirsty then shared some of the experiences of wolf watching in Yellowstone and wolf behaviour. This has to be the best lecture I have ever attended, Kirsty is a great speaker.

I was fascinated to learn how wolves actually kill their predatory competition such as other packs and coyotes. I thought they just hunted for food. Kirsty explained some of the hunting behaviour and how they adapt strategies for different prey. She also told us a story of how a pack of wolves set them up at the dens of another pack where there were 3 females with cubs in the dens. The females could not leave the den to feed and hunt as they needed to protect their young. Eventually the wolves left and the females emerged without cubs. The wolf expert with Kirsty believed the females had to eat their puppies to survive. This was the biggest and strongest pack until this year because they didn’t produce surviving young. The competing pack became the strongest pack.
I spoke to Toni about the pack structure of the wolves and it was interesting that the natural alphas were aloof and non aggressive. There was very little conflict or disputes and a pack lead by a natural leader was harmonious. One of the other packs had a female who was not a natural leader but was always seeking status of alpha. This pack had problems Toni said because she is a poor leader. It’s interesting that people believe they should be pinning and growling at their dogs to show them they are alpha because that’s what wolves do. Yet this is the behaviour of a poor leader. The true leader is calm confident, fair and non aggressive.
The one thing I learnt was dogs and wolves have many similarities but they are also very different. I do not have a wolf in my living room and I wouldn’t want one, not even a hand reared socialised one.
In the afternoon they brought out 2 females from the Mackenzie pack. Each wolf had two handlers. We had to line up and allow the wolves to walk down the line to inspect us. The first one walked right passed, they took interest in some people and ignored others. The second wolf stopped sniffed me and rubbed up against me, strangely like a cat does not a dog. Being so close is amazing, i was excited but a bit scared too. These animals have double the jaw strength of a pit bull.
We then walked with the wolves and were allowed to meet and stroke the wolves one at time. It was the wolves walk and we walked behind them and they were really allowed to do their thing, it was only when they stopped and relaxed we could approach. The wolves ignored some people and got really friendly with others. You were only allowed to touch the wolf on its belly. Not on the head or back as people do with dogs. The coat is surprisingly coarse like a wiry terrier coat. One of the females was definitely more sociable than the other and it was interesting to see a group of behaviourists edging towards meeting the more sociable relaxed one.
We finished around 4pm and set of back to Manchester. I was a great experience and would recommend it to anyone.