Otis the foster dog

otis from aireworth dogs in need**UPDATE**: The wee lad went to his forever home this afternoon, we know that he has found a great home. We will miss you and the house is quiet without you mucking about. [/end update]

We got this little fella yesterday evening to look after until he finds a new home. Tilley just thinks he is a toy, she is bonkers with him.

He had a big day yesterday – left his mum, went to vet and then to us, via some puking in the car.

He is a collie cross and is 4-months old and has now found our radiators and sofa.

He’s safe now. He’s had a harsh start in life. But he will now know love. He needs to settle and get used to a home environment. He has already started his vaccinations and has been chipped. He will be neutered when he’s old enough. We will host him for two weeks and then he is ready for a forever home.

If you are interested he will be rehomed in Keighley and the surrounding areas area, please contact Aireworth dogs in need Go on you know you want to!

Gallery from New Year:

Gallery from the first two nights:

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.

Update on Tilley’s elbow dysplasia

Shaven TilleyWe’ve been very busy keeping Tilley quiet since her operation so we haven’t had the time to do much blogging. We’re just glad that we don’t do the Christmas thing, because she needed constant attention to keep her quiet over the festive period. Here are extracts from The Tilley Diary which will give you a snapshot of what we’ve been up to since she had operations on both her front legs for elbow dysplasia.

The Tilley Diary: 19 December, 2013

Our Tilley had her elbow operations yesterday and all went well. She is now home and curled up in front of the fire covered in fleecy blankets as all the fur on her chest and front legs was shaved off. She’s very dopey and wobbly on her legs (but still tries to run!) but was pleased to see us and even offered a tail wag and a show of her belly.

Tilley bonesThe surgeon was pleased with how the operation went and there was more cartilage in each of the coronoid processes than he’d expected. The picture to the left, is of the bits the bits he took out of her elbows in one leg.

So, fingers crossed we will be able to keep her quiet enough over the next few months for a solid recovery. Luckily she loves her crate so that will be very helpful during this time. And I’ve been stocking up on things to stuff and freeze (Zooplus sent an extra free bag of chews, which is handy!), and reading up about new clicker training ideas. It’s going to be a struggle to keep her contained but we’ve tried to be well-prepared. Woolly just popped to Pets at Home to get a cone of shame (poor Tilley) as she’s chewing at her surgical sites.

The shaved parts of her chest have shown up many more little scars (we’re not sure from what – other dogs? cats? rabbits?) than we’d previously known about, which must have happened in her early life before we adopted her from the Dogs Trust.

Phew. I’m so glad the first big event is over. It’s wonderful to have her home.

The Tilley Diary: 20 December, 2013

Tilley had a good night although she’s developed a bit of a cough which the surgeon thinks is a post-anaesthetic irritation – we’re to see our local vet if it doesn’t settle down over the weekend. She was extremely cuddly when I checked on her a few times during the night, nestling her head into my arm and wriggling upside down for endless belly rubs. She is settling off and on in her crate with the odd outing for cuddles on her bed next to the crate or to sniff around the room or on-lead out in the back yard.

It is distressing when she won’t settle, though. If only we could tell them it was for their own good.

The Tilley Diary: 23 December, 2013

An update on our Tilley post-surgery. She’s doing pretty well – sleeping, eating, drinking, pottying and all the other vital stuff! She wobbles and hobbles about gingerly, and is extremely cuddly at the moment. I’ve put a few pots of herbs along the edge of the yard so she has something to sniff at on her potty outings!

We’ve never known her to be so in need of affection, strokes, belly rubs and tickles. Even when we’re in the process of stroking her she gently paws us and looks up at us, in what we call her “penguin pose”, for more rubs and cuddles.

Antler chews and frozen cow hooves stuffed with wet food have been a “dogsend” in keeping her entertained in her crate during any excitable moments. And the clicker training is also working wonders at getting her to accept being in her crate at unusual times.

Tilley in her crate with pinguShe is on Tramadol so this helps in keeping her calm. We have moved her crate into the living room and she seems to prefer lying on the memory foam mattress in there to her usual bed. She really loves her crate at the moment and will curl up in there with the door open – unheard of!

She licks at her stitches so we put a kiddies jumper on her from the charity shop as she looked so miserable in the “cone of shame”. We also got a Hotterdog jumper but can’t get it over her front legs.

Here she is with her new favourite toy, Pingu, and with her favourite cuddler.

The Tilley Diary: 28 December, 2013

Tilley cuddlesWe were doing really well at keeping Tilley quiet but these past couple of days she’s been very restless, pacing around when she’s out of her crate, doing the post-poo zoomies like I’ve never seen, and going bonkers when any food is produced. We have to keep her on the lead even when indoors to keep her under control. When she thinks she’s had enough time in her crate she tries to open the door – she’s almost worked out how! Her left foreleg is obviously giving her jip as she holds it up some of the time, though the local vet at her recent check-up said not to worry unless she was yelping in pain or not wanting to put weight on it.

We’re employing all our coping strategies! We’re here all the time and are doing sitting-still clicker games, the Overall relaxation protocol and other such training, plus she has potters out in the backyard to sniff about among the herbs, and the odd frozen stuffed kong or hoof to keep her busy. Phew. This is a challenge for us all.

The Tilley Diary: 2 January, 2014

Tilley posing on sofaOur adorable little mongrel had a check-up at the vet this morning. Everything looks fine with the surgery and she was really good while the vet took out her stitches, weighed her, checked her ears, gave her a manicure and referred her to physio and hydrotherapy.

Tilley is also happy to report that she has made significant progress in training her owners. She made a compelling case for being allowed on the sofas by settling beautifully each time she was invited up on them and her owners now seem unable to reverse the No Dog On Sofas rule.

Her cunning plan succeeded!

Editor’s note: I (Woolly) take no responsibility for this and have protested through the rightful channels. But my protest has been vetoed by the females in the house, so she is on my lap while watching telly this afternoon.

The Tilley Diary: 5 February, 2014

Tilley Black Dog HydroIt’s been a while since we wrote an update on Tilley as the truth is… she’s been keeping us VERY busy! She is doing pretty well. Keeping her quiet is the most incredible challenge. The poor pup just wants to run, and jump, and wiggle, and chase, and play… You get the picture. She saw the surgeon for a check-up a few weeks ago and he was happy with her progress. She can now do 2×20 minute walks per day, up from 2×10 minute. As you can imagine, when she does get out she is the happiest dog in the land.

She has started physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, which she adores. She was nervous about the water at first, but on the second attempt she was keen to get into the water and did about five laps! The place we go, Black Dog Hydrotherapy at Harrogate, is really excellent and the therapists spend a lot of time introducing the dogs to the water and making them completely comfortable.

The Tilley Diary: 12 February, 2014

Hurrah! Tilley has just been signed off by the surgeon after he reviewed her x-rays and we can start to build up her exercise. He’s very happy with how she’s doing and the bones are knitting together nicely. He even said we could start with letting her run free in a enclosed area; short runs at first. This we know she is definitely looking forward to, and we can’t wait to see her running rings around us (in not just a metaphorical way!). She’s been a little start at dealing with her ‘prison time’. Yes, she drove us made at times, but she developed a lot of patience in the end.

On a side note: all the car journeys we have done with Tilley to the vet, physio and hydrotherapist, have unfortunately not helped in changing her mind about the car. She absolutely detests it. We have tried two or three different drugs that should help with her car sickness and anxiety. Nothing has helped or stopped her whining, crying, drooling like the Niagara Falls and being sick almost every time she travels. We’ve had best results with not feeding her either food or medication for a good few hours before the trip, but she still whines with anxiety and nausea – we think the former has come from the latter. The return journey is always the best, since she is knackered from the ‘to’ journey and the vet/hydrotherapy visit, but still she is not happy and has to be lifted into the car as she won’t walk near it. It is distressing for all of us. We have a lot of desensitisation work on our hands if we’re to be able to drive her places happily!

The dark days of keeping her (and ourselves) cooped up will soon be behind us… roll on spring. We have lots of lovely moors and dales to show you, Tilley!

Sticks and stones: Tilley’s elbow dysplasia

tilley over skiptonA couple of months ago, we noticed that Tilley was limping badly especially after a long walk or a long sleep. She would struggle to get up from her bed and then wobble quite noticeably for a while. She would also throw her elbow out on her right front leg while walking.

We went to the local vet where we got the bad news that x-rays showed that Tilley has elbow dysplasia, with the right leg being the worst affected. We had her booked in for an arthroscopy on the right elbow followed by the surgery the vet thought would have the best effect.

The vet told us that her particular problem is a short radius, coupled with an elliptical shape to the ulna. Osteoarthritis is showing already in both elbow joints. Depending on the severity of the condition shown by the arthroscopy, the vet will either just clean out the joint, or cut a chunk out of the ulna, or cut the ulna and plate it. The joints have recently started clicking loudly when she walks, so we are calling her Clicky now.

This problem is genetic and it has not helped that she clearly had been left to run around too much while a puppy. We don’t know how much, since she was found dumped by the side of the road at roughly six months old.

Well, that was the situation until we did a bit of further research and found another surgeon who has the highest qualifications in the area of dog orthopaedics and is a RCVS recognised specialist – you do just want the best for your dog. Today Tilley had a CT at the new specialist, as that gives a better image and idea of what is going on in her joints, compared to the x-ray.

Tilley in sheep pooThis meant an hour long trip in car, for which she thanked us in her own special way. Having woken her up two hours before her normal morning call, she managed to sneak in a bit of cat poo during her walk. So much for ‘nil by mouth’ before CT scan. In the car she was whining, dribbling and pacing in her crate, poor thing. Then with a loud burp, she regurgitated her ‘breakfast’ – yes, if dog sick wasn’t disgusting enough, our delightful pooch had sicked up cat poo. But she still had a surprise up her sleeve. In true K9 style, she immediately lapped up her deposit. Yummy. The recycling would probably have continued ad infinitum if we’d not stopped to clear things up.

The vet specialist spent a good half hour talking us, observing Tilley walking and checking her joints. He manipulated her joints in the most comfortable position for her – lying on the ground with her belly in the air. She clearly wasn’t happy with him bending her elbows and licked his face – her usual gentle response to discomfort. This is another reason we like Tilley so much: she would never bite. She knows and respects the difference between skin and toys when we play. She was taken off to be sedated before her CT scan. We were pleased to hear that this procedure could be done without a general anaesthetic.

We returned to pick Tilley up a few hours later and heard the news that the situation is worse than the initial x-rays had shown. There are bone fragments in her joints as well as joint incongruency. The vet had an emergency and was in theatre, so we got the info from the head nurse – who also doubles as his wife – who told us the he will sit down tonight and really study the images from the scan to find out the best options for Tilley.

We are very thankful, firstly that we’re in a position to help her as much as we can, and secondly that we took out decent Lifetime cover PetPlan insurance as the vet’s bill is likely to be in excess of £3000. We’re covered up to £4000 with PetPlan.

The vet called this morning to discuss his findings. In summary, Tilley has very dodgy elbows, with each displaying similar symptoms: bone fragments, ill-fitting joints – not a straightforward case of short radius syndrome – and arthritis. She will have an arthroscopy next week on both elbows to remove fragments, review the wear patterns in the cartilage and remove bits of bone which are hindering joint function. While the aim is to slow down the progression of joint degeneration, it is not a cure and not all dogs are less lame after the op. But, 80-85% show some improvement.

We’d welcome any advice from anyone who has been through a similar experience with their dog, especially to do with suitable jointcare foods, complementary therapies, exercise, supplements, and how to keep a livewire puppy quiet while healing.

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!

How many beds?

dog in a boxWith two Aldi dog fleeces, a very large fleece blanket, a smaller fleece blanket, a plumply (aka single duvet), a cardboard box (is our dog a cat?), the laundry wicker basket, our legs when we sit on the floor and a few big pillows you would think that Tilley has it covered with a place to sleep.

Well no… Peli still went out and got a luxury ‘doughnut-shaped’ dog bed for her.

Here are a few pictures of a dog sleeping …

And yet she often just dumps herself on the floor.

Pampered pooch or what?!

Playing pet detective: tracing Tilley’s history

First picture of Tilley aka Scrappy at 6 months oldHere’s “Scrappy” when she was first rescued by Leitrim Animal Welfare in Ireland. Read all about how we traced her history…

We’ve now had our wonderful Tilley for seven weeks and we’re all having a ball. Everyone who meets her falls in love with this little cheeky, amusing, affectionate collie cross. “Such a pretty dog!” they exclaim. “Aren’t you a bonny one?” as she wriggles with excitement and tries to lick their ears off.

We couldn’t imagine life without her madly wagging tail greeting us every morning, her demands for belly rubs at every opportunity, her joyful running in figures of eight about the park, her cute squeaky yawns, or the way she plonks herself down for cuddles at night.

But we couldn’t help being curious about her past life and the experiences which brought her to live with us in a little market town at the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.

We knew from Dog’s Trust Darlington that she’d been rescued in Ireland and brought over for rehoming, but nothing more. So I began the search by contacting the Dog’s Trust again to ask for any other information they might have on file for Scrappy, as she was known.

A very helpful response from Katie in Darlington came quickly: according to their records, Scrappy had been picked up as a stray and handed to the Dog’s Trust via Leitrim Animal Welfare, then transported from Belfast to Cairnryan in a purpose-built animal ambulance.

I discovered Leitrim Animal Welfare had a Facebook group so dropped them a quick message to ask if they by any chance remembered Scrappy (and her brother, Squishy). This morning we were rather choked up to receive the following lovely message about Tilley (Scrappy) from Andrea at Leitrim:

Oh wow – Vicky, thanks so much for getting in touch, I’m thrilled to see Tilly looking so happy and so well. I’ve printed the photos off to show the staff, they will be delighted! Tilley and Squishy came in to our centre on 13.07.2013. They were found on the N4 in Carrick-on-Shannon and it is a very busy main road. Linda, the person who found them held onto them for 3 weeks in the hope that their owner would come forwards, but no-one did, so presuming they had been dumped she bought them to our centre. I’m just so happy that you got in touch, thank you and we are all sending a huge hug for Tilley.

Andrea also sent the photograph – see the top picture – she has of ‘Scrappy’ when she first arrived at the Leitrim centre. As Andrea put it, “She just sat down and smiled as if to say, ‘OK, I’m here now, what’s the craic?'”! That seems to perfectly sum up the happy-go-lucky nature that we now know and love!

Tilley’s tired after her day of running around, but she’s managed a special message for everyone who helped her…

whats the craic
It seems incredible that Tilley, once wandering a busy road in serious danger, is now lying contented at my feet as I type this, thanks to the efforts of many caring people. We are very grateful to Linda, the lady who found and rescued Tilley, to Leitrim Animal Welfare and to the Dog’s Trust. You all gave Tilley the second chance she so deserved! We’re also happy to learn that her sibling, Squishy, appears also to have been rehomed from Darlington Dog’s Trust. All best wishes and wagging tails from Tilley to her brother.

We’ll be updating this blog about our life with Tilley, so watch this space!

Day 28 in the doggy house …

… and Tilley has had her ups and downs. (And we love her to bits.)

We truly enjoy having her around, she is keeping Peli on her toes since she is spending all day at home with Tilley. She is cheekier, testing her boundaries like a true teenager should. We leave the room and up checking the table tops she goes and as we come back she is down on her mat looking like nothing happened (Peli even got this on video!).

One trip to the vet and her spay scar is much better. She loved it at the vet, though the journey to and from, less so. Her phobia of the car is growing, so we’re only doing essential trips now and we’re slowly working on habituating her. Softly does it. Though she does enjoy laying in the bicycle trailer, which we are hoping to use to explore the Dales with her.

We went to doggy school with her and, as this post explains, it was an utter disaster, she was not herself for a day or two after. We are still very careful not to make sharp noises or fast movements around her, following the unfortunate use of the rattle can by the trainer, and are carefully working on associating that type of action with good stuff, rather than bad.

Happily, we had a one-to-one training session with a different local trainer, who uses positive methods only, which went brilliantly. How we wish we’d heard about her in the first place! She and Tilley bonded right away and we’ve got loads of advice and tips to work on.

We took TIlley on a longish walk yesterday and today. As soon as we were on new ground and there were shops, people, cats (especially cats), Tilley became very keen to explore. Once in the dog exercise area of the park she had a good 20 minute run around off lead, well she had a 6-8 metres long loose lead after her so we had something to step on if she tried to escape the enclosed area. It was fantastic to see the joy on her face as she was able to just run, and run! Today’s walk went past the allotments to get to the same enclosure and there are chickens, ducks, sheep and a rather large horse. She did extremely well with no barking or growling, just loads of wags and curious looks.

She is now about eight months old and is somewhat dyspraxic, because she is forever falling over her legs! OK, she does have four and we all know how hard it is with only two but she does bang into doors, tables and is lacking spatial awareness. Hopefully she will soon learn where she starts and stops!

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.

We got a cat

We have tried with no avail to get Tilley interested in balls so that we can play fetch. But nothing helped even cutting a little hole and filling it with food didn’t get her excited at all.

Today Peli tried to give her a ball of tread and we now know that both the Dogs Trust and our biology teachers have been telling us lies.

Cause Tilley loved the tread and went utterly mad around the house with it.