This post is a bit crap

There is a dog shit in my gardenI grew up in the 70’s (yes I’m that old) and into the 80s and 90s there was a dog close at hand. Back then I, and other dog owners, never really spend much time picking up their deposits. The general rule was leave it where it fell, though if you were kind at heart and it was a hard deposit you would gently nudge it into the gutter.

In the 80’s there was a campaign started in Denmark where people would go around and put a little flags into the deposits they found on the pavements. It did the trick, somewhat, over the years more and more people started to pick up after their mutts. I can only guess that this turn of event also got the ball rolling over here and people started to pick up after their mutts.

Though this event didn’t spread to Paris, while I lived there I learned a brilliant skill. Keep one eye one the stunning architecture and the beautiful people and with the other you scan the path ahead, so that you can hot step past the many deposits that covers the French capitals streets. Who have never heard about the “PooperScooter” that zoomed about in Paris and picked up from lazy owners. It’s been a while since I was last in Paris, so I don’t know if it is better now.

In the last many years I haven’t always owned a dog but I have always been a dog lover. It saddens me to see that there is still a good amount of people who don’t pick up after their best friend. This is where the I have made good use of the skill I learned in Paris, though it is not one you really want to use.

Not picking up after your dog is right up there with RLJ – Red Light Jumpers, cyclist who makes the cyclist who DO stop for red – look bad. I hate to think what other people think about me when I out walking Tilley and we happen to walk past someone else’s deposit, that she didn’t create and I didn’t pick up.

I’m not sure what I find the saddest: A deposit left laying on the pavement or in the grass in the park etc. Vs. the left plastic bag with a deposit in hanging from a tree on a nature walk, next to the entrance to a park etc. I think it is the latter, since the owner has done something, but couldn’t be bothered to do the rest, but went out of their way to tuck it into a drystone wall. Please take it home or to the nearest bin.

Yes, you could have forgotten a bag or not seen the deposit being produced. But there isn’t really an excuse for not having one – 300 Tesco Everyday Value Nappy Bags for £0.35 – yes that is 35 pence for three hundred bags! Even if you have to double bag, it is still much cheaper than a normal doggy poo bags, thanks for the heads up Varity.

big scoop dogs trustSo please folk pick up from your K-9, we all only want the best for our little fury friends.

I wrote this many moons ago and was planing to take some pictures of the worst offenders, but never really got stated. But today is a good time to post it even with the lack of photos, because :

Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has teamed up again with Keep Britain Tidy for The Big Scoop on June 13th 2014.

Review: Arden Grange Puppy Junior dog food

Arden Grange Puppy Junior dog foodWe adopted Tilley from the Dog’s Trust in September 2013 and got a free 2kg bag of Arden Grange Puppy/Junior (chicken and rice) as part of the welcome pack. As she’d already been fed this brand while being cared for by the Dog’s Trust, it made sense to continue using it. She clearly does well on this food: her coat is extremely shiny, her eyes bright and (forgive us for giving too much information here – dog owners will understand!) her “deposits” of a good consistency.

We did some research into Arden Grange Puppy Junior dog food – which we’d never heard of before getting Tilley – and realised that it is a high-quality brand, which scores a better-than-average 3.4 out of 5 on whichdogfood.co.uk. (It’s good to know that a lot of rescue dogs are benefiting from a high quality food while in kennels!) We also approve of the ethics of this family company, particularly that the food is made using traceable, sustainable food stocks, with support for local farmers and no GM ingredients.

2013-10-06--10.09.41_IMG_0434It’s not the cheapest food available, but we think it is worth the extra cash. We pay £34.90 for 12kg (a discounted rate) from www.zooplus.co.uk/ which works out at about 60-80 pence per day.

For the first two months of her time with us, Tilley adored her Arden Grange kibble. It’s small-sized and she clearly found it very palatable. We’d feed her twice a day in toys such as the Kong Wobbler and milk bottles with holes cut out, and she had great fun at mealtimes. Feeding her in toys was a great way of putting her collie-cross mind to work, and tiring her out! She found the kibble so appealing and tasty that we were even able to use it on the odd occasion as a training treat when out and about.

Recently, however, she started to turn her nose up at kibble at mealtimes. She wouldn’t touch it dry, so we started moistening it with a little warm water, and feeding small portions, rather than serving it in toys. We decided to contact Arden Grange’s nutritional adviser, Ness Bird, for advice on two issues: Tilley going off her kibble, and her tendency to hyperactivity.

We were very impressed with Ness Bird’s response: personalised, friendly and comprehensive. She firstly provided an interesting fact sheet which dispels the commonly-held belief that high-protein food leads to hyperactivity. And she reassured us that it’s not unusual for adolescent dogs to go off their food when their growth rate slows down, and she gave us a number of ways to approach this, which may also help with Tilley’s high energy levels.

2013-09-08--12.02.34_IMG_7301We’re to review Tilley’s feeding amounts, including treats and extras – it seems that we were feeding too much; moisten her kibble with water or a tiny taste of dissolved Marmite if she isn’t keen on it; and consider feeding an adult variety with a different meat source. Ness offered to send us samples of a couple of adult food varieties, plus a liver training treat, and also gave us a couple of recipes for healthy treats to make at home: liver cake and fish cake.

Tilley has since wolfed down her smaller portions of kibble, moistened with a little warm water, and is certainly thriving on the food. She gets many compliments from people we meet on her shiny, soft and silky coat (especially from small children, who she loves to lick!). And our vet agreed that she is in really great condition.

Thank you, Ness and Arden Grange. We will follow your advice carefully. Tilley looks forward to receiving the free samples and in the meantime, we’ll get creative with the treat recipes and continue her training!

Tilley training: a very accidental experience of harsh training methods.

First day at dog trainingA couple of updates to this post:

We’ve since heard from local people about several other incidents of harsh methods being used by this club, including a puppy being ‘pinned down’ during a class. Also, Peli reminded me that another attendee sitting next to her while Tilley was being subjected to the ‘corrections’ told her not to worry, that she regularly used the rattle bottle on her dog when he barked, and that now he’s really wary of the bottle – which the attendee said with a laugh.

Also, very sadly, we noticed this evening that Tilley freaked out when Peli swatted a mosquito with a tea towel. The sharp downwards ‘swat’ movement clearly reminded her of the rattle bottle and she shied away and needed much reassurance. Later, a rattle from her kibble in the plastic measuring cup also made her jolt. Needless to say, we now feel even more sad and angry and determined to follow this up.

End Update:

We tried to clue ourselves up as much as possible about how to train our dog, including reading blogs, forums and books, watching YouTube, DVDs and TV, there is only so much you can do by yourself. We needed to go to dog training classes at least to confirm that we were on the right track and also to socialise Tilley. She is a bit of a handful out on the lead when she meets other dogs, people or when the wind blows a leaf across our path.

At home without any distractions we have managed to get her nice and calmly out the door and out walking on a loose lead. But as soon as she sees anything new she is all over the place, so we haven’t managed to walk far from our front door. We have tried at least four anti-pull harnesses, which she has learnt to pull against. She goes into her “meerkat” impression when she very keen to get further than her lead. Along with the stopping trick or the turning around tricks when she pulls, we still haven’t gotten far, because when we get away from the back street it is a whole new and exciting world. Her best time to walk is her last walk of the day until we come across a person or a dog.

We have been using what is called “positive reinforcement” training, used by the likes of Victoria Stilwell, and yes we may have been a bit soft on the commands. But when she is concentrating she does her sit, stay and ah-ah – stop doing naughty things – even when said with a soft voice. Having guests over she is good as gold with a little bit of jumping up, but if our guest turns around and ignores Tilley she soon figures out that jumping is a no go, and sits neatly.

We were hoping that by getting her to doggy school, she could meet other people and dogs and hopefully would calm down and get used to new things without going bonkers.

I took her to the first class at Embsay Dog Training Club and she was a right old nightmare, didn’t know what to do with herself. She couldn’t contain herself and with 15 people and nine other dogs it was quite a lot to process in one go. Even with her favourite treat, liver cake, I couldn’t turn her head, and if I did there was just something new to explore.

I went away know that we had to be a bit more sterner with Tilley, but that is hard to be when she is as good as gold at home. The good news was that the day after her first day at school she slept more that usual. We just thought, “Oh, it’s her first time at a training class, and the trainers say they’re happy for a very reactive dog to attend, so I suppose it will get better.”

During that first class the trainers didn’t do anything to cause us concern about their methods, so we decided to return the following week.

On Tilley’s “second day at school” we had Peli as back-up, I clearly needed an extra hand to try to control her. Tilley was as crazy as the first time: all over the place and this time was called in before the previous class had left the hall. There were about nine other dogs in our class and about 15-17 people in the hall: quite a prospect for a keen, reactive pup.

While feeding her treats and telling her off with a sterner “shhhh” than before she calmed down enough to sit/lie down and watch the other dogs, as long as they stayed still too. As soon as they moved Tilley became anxious, whining, wiggling and panting.

We got called up to try the “walk out of the door” exercise, which we have almost perfected at home. While walking down the middle of the classroom Tilley completely lost it, throwing herself about and running like a crazy thing with her paws scratching and sliding across the floorboards. Coming back into the classroom she reacted to all the dogs and people again and went bonkers.

While I’d been up with Tilley, another trainer asked Peli, “Do you use any corrections on her?”. Peli replied that we’d tried different harnesses, but wasn’t sure what she meant by corrections? That trainer then spoke to another, who went into a back room and returned with a bottle with something in it. I had no idea what was going to happen next.

As I was trying to return Tilley to our seat, one of the three trainers came towards us and Tilley was keen to meet this new and exciting person. But the trainer, with no warning to me, then shook a plastic bottle full of dried chickpeas right next Tilley’s head with a loud “Bang”. It was such a loud noise that it shocked me, and I’m a big 6’4″ bloke. Even Peli across the classroom was shocked. I’d thought the trainer was going to take the lead from me, or show me how to hold it. I was totally unprepared.

So, you can imagine how Tilley reacted. She was to be found way behind me at the end of the lead with her tail between her legs, ears right back, hugging the ground while shaking in clear panic. The trainer told me to call her to me and praise her when she came to me. She gained some confidence and came to me, but tentatively, and not really sure what was going on. Heck, neither did I! Just as we had calmed down, a different dog trainer came up and Tilley – clearly still scared, but getting over it – walked very keenly towards the trainer to say hi, and got yet another loud bottle shake next to her head.

Tilley was now shaking badly, very freaked out and looking, panicked, around the classroom trying to figure out what was going on and where the next bang might come from. I’m talking about a very scared dog here, tail between legs, ears right back, curled up on the floor shaking and she wouldn’t even come to me. The more I called the more she backed away, even treats didn’t get her to move. She was so frightened she ended up wetting herself right there on the floor and onto herself.

The other dogs in the class didn’t look too happy at these huge noises either, or seeing a stressed-out dog wetting itself on the floor.

This is where I should have walked right out of the door, but both Peli and I were so shocked, we didn’t know how to react.

In the end, as Tilley refused to move towards any of us, the first trainer said, “This will unlock her” and put a trail of treats across the floor to bring her back to us. She very, very tentatively followed the food, but she was clearly traumatised. For the rest of the session she was hiding under my legs, clearly unhappy and wary of everyone.

But the corrective advice didn’t stop there: we were then told we should jab her with a finger on her hindquarters to get her into line when she got too giddy, and the trainers gave detailed directions about how to do this, and where exactly to jab her.

I’m not really sure about this method of training – corrective, or dominance-based, or alpha? I’m not sure how to label it but we’ve seen Cesar Millan using something similar on his programmes. It might work on an aggressive and really troublesome dog, but not on this sweet-natured, reactive, unsocialised pup who is keen on meeting new friends, overwhelmed by a room full of new people and dogs and – significantly, as a rescue dog, with an unknown background.

We finally got her home and digested the doggy class. We were confused and not able to process what we’d experienced. As very new dog owners (the last time I owned a pup was many years ago) the thought did cross our mind: is this the way dogs really should be trained?

But the next morning made it clear to us that it certainly isn’t. Tilley was not herself at all – very anxious, not sure what was going on, not our usual bright and sparky Tilley. Peli reported that she had been walking around with her tail between her legs, lacking her normal spring, head down and had been looking for me more than normal. She has always reminded Peli when it was her dinner time at four, but on that day at that time she just laid on Peli’s lap, looking sad. When fed with her Kong and toys she definitely wasn’t her playful self and it was a very subdued mealtime. And she even peed inside, even after she had just been taken outside to go potty.

I arrived home from work and she was happy to see me but lacked the same spring as normal. When coming up to her she always turns over to show her belly with an wagging tail. But tonight it was done in a much slower speed with a much less wagging tail and not with the same look. Looking at us with her head turned and out the corners of her eyes, not direct eye contact as before.

The way she looked at us was with much less joy, trust and a face that said “I’m not really sure if you are just going to pat me or make a big nasty noise”.

I’m all for a firm hand on some dog breeds and if the dog has behaviour problems but not scaring the bejeesus out of them so that their personality changes. And certainly not without clearly explaining and confirming with the dog owner before the change of training method.

It is clear to us that:
1. That training group should not accept highly-reactive dogs into a busy class. It’s not fair on anyone: the dog itself or the other class attendees. It should have been clear that our dog was not suited to classes, and this should have been pointed out to us.
2. If they plan to use such corrections, then the owners (and other class members) are warned and – importantly – have agreed in advance.
3. That they make clear when advertising their courses that they promote the use of such techniques.

Let’s just say that we are not going back to these dog training classes again, and we’ll be contacting our vet (who recommended them) to let them know about our experience.

Day nine in the dog house

We didn’t have time this weekend to write a post to mark a full week with Tilley. She has been good as gold and Peli has done some splendid work with her. I walked her for 15 minutes one night with a loose lead and no pulling at all. It’s not her natural walking state, shall we say, and it’s taken a lot of patience (using Victoria Stilwell’s ‘reverse direction’ technique) to get to this point!

The bin men came and went without any noise from Tilley, we even had someone knock on the door and she didn’t bark. Though when the postman did his drop she had something to say. Dogs never change!

A normal day in the dog house, I get up around 4-5 in the morning depending on what time we put her to bed, just to see if she needs a leak. We get up again at 7.30 – 8 am and immediately take her for a walk. Our morning walks are rather chaotic – she understandably has a lot of energy in the morning after a night in her crate! Then we chill a bit with some gentle training – sits and downs and stays and a game of ‘ping-pong puppy’ which allows us to practise her ‘recall’. Then feeding time at the zoo is noisy because we hide her kibble in various toys and bottles, so that she has to work for the food. She loves this, and her tail never stops wagging as she hunts out the grub! It also exhausts her and she tends to have a good long nap after food.

Sorry for the lack of photos and quality, just got so into it that I forgot and when remembered only had a phone camera at a hand.

Just before 10am I leave for work and Peli has her for the day. Peli’s well tired when I get home and Tilley is still happy to play more! She gets training walks, play sessions and quick bursts of training throughout the day, interspersed with lots of dozing, depending on what Peli’s schedule is. When I get home at 6pm Peli shows me the new tricks and a run down of the ‘day at school’. 🙂

While Peli cooks I check the internet (to see if it is broken) and since we don’t have desks yet I sit on the floor. I usually then have a cuddly and rather tired Tilley plonked on my lap, half on me and the other half on both sides of me, most uncomfortable but she snores away and is generally affectionate and adorable!

On Saturday we took her to a local reservoir for a walk. Getting her in to the car was a bit tricky as she isn’t that keen. The idea was to get her to get used to the car and the journey with small ones at first, so she hopefully would learn that the car would mean a fun walk at the end. Sadly the five minute drive ended with her emptying her guts (again) in her crate. We’re going to have to work on this!

All the training that Peli put in was right out the window since this was new ground to be explored. Tilley saw her first rams, met seven other dogs and three kids covered in great smelling candy.

She did brilliantly when she saw the rams and got within 3 metres, OK she was pulling like a mad thing and was keen to get closer to them, but there was no barking or growling or even herding. The same was with the other dogs though she went extra mad when the other dogs were off lead. The three little girls got to pet her and feed her treats, though she was more interested in licking their candy-covered fingers. She’s definitely a gentle soul who likes meeting new people.

Getting her back in the car was hard work and we had to part-lift her in. She was rather glad to get out when we got home, but went into the crate to sleep as we went shopping for more dog food.

You can’t go into a super pet store and only go out with dog food, we came home with a Kong Wobbler for to play with. She was nicely tired for the rest of the day after she had food from the Kong.

The next day she was very good meeting and playing with two new friends (Peli’s sister and her partner), with next-to-no jumping. (Though she did try to take some cake from a plate on the table, of course you see how far you can push it when guests are around, especially when the cake in question is so delicious!)

Potential dangerous dogs what to do?

rspcaI have been brought up by a packs of dogs erm I have had dogs around me all my childhood: my folks, grandparents and friends have always had dogs around them. My uncle has trained police, security and guide dogs and is still one of the most known people in Denmark when it comes to dog training and keeping.

I think from what I have learned over the years from having dogs and from what I have learned speaking to my uncle and see him training, I have a pretty good understanding of how to keep a dog.

I know the sound of a dog having a good old laugh playing with its new toy or mate and I know the sound of a dog when it is about to rip your arm off.

Some of you might have seen our neighbour’s dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier. It has some play mates: two other bigger Staffs.

I have seen the owners of these dogs hitting them when the dogs didn’t walk to heel etc. The way the dogs are are walking around, either on the lead or off, you can see that the way they have been “trained” is with a heavy hand, tail between the legs, ears back and head kept low. The owners just keep shouting and swearing (not that it matters to the dog) at the dogs to get them to come back.

Today they have been running around in the garden and some of the play fights have turned rather nasty. And we then had the kids running around playing along, running about between them. And it is not just one day this is happening, quite often I have heard these fights going on in the garden and seen them.

But, by the sound today, we are just one little step away one of them biting one of the kids. In early spring two of them were playing with a ball with one of the kids. It got a bit rough and I heard the kid cry out in alarm when the two dogs was snapping at each other.

So the main question is: where can we report this? Is there a way to put this on record? As if the worst happens and one kid is missing an arm one afternoon, I would like it that there was a history of what has gone on to prove that they are not fit to keep dogs. Though they do look well fed and kept, if you look away from the hitting.

Update : I have talked to others and they say that I should record this and send to http://www.rspca.org.uk/

Training your dog

zitta my dogI have had a fair amount of dogs. Even though I haven’t been old enough to be the main trainer, I have learned a lot about it. What will mess up a dogs head is that one person says that it can be in the bed for example and an other person says it can’t. Though what is worst, if you change your mind everyday, that will truly confuse the dog.

So, some simple rules and stick to them, is the way to go.

It has been around 20 years since I have been the “master/owner”* of a dog, so I’m probably rather rusty.

The families I see around here with dogs clearly haven’t done any discipline or training. I have even seen them hitting their dogs**. Every day I see them walking their dog in a 45° angle, trying not to fall over as the dog is pulling the lead that hard. Or them shouting at the top of their lungs in a vain attempt to gain control of their K9.

I for sure will take up some training when we get our woofy. As there surely will be some helpful hints told at the sessions. Like when you can expect the dog to learn certain things, the best ways to discipline etc. For me it is a better way to learn as I can’t learn from a book. And its a great way to meet other dogs and owners.

And after I have trained our woofy I will would love to walk our dog through this area we live. Just to show them how it is done, walking your dog on heel. Maybe even without a lead as my uncle is very known to do with his dogs, but then again he is a professional dog trainer.

*) though we now have to use companion animals according to this.

**) now that is an other post in it self.