Monday, 17 December 2012

Border Collies

 You might think that you know what a Border Collie looks like.   I have been looking at the breed for a couple of years now and there is such a huge range of colours, shapes, sizes and coats that it is amazing that they are all considered the same breed.
 Until 1915 it did not have a name, it was just known as a Collie which may be an old Anglo-Saxon word for the colour black, or the Gaelic word for 'useful'.
 A formidable working dog with strong herding instincts, found on working farms all over the world now.  Originally black and white, but as you see from the pictures here it now comes in such a wide range of forms.
 Grey Merle, Tricolour Merle, Brown Merle.. the list goes on...
 Tri Colour long coats,
 Black and white long coats.. the list is extensive. Because this has always been a working dog it is no surprise to learn that it did not aquire a Kennel Club breed standard until 1976.
 Even some golden colours appear from time to time.  This golden Collie appeared in a litter of all sorts of different colours.
 Sable collies are another colour form within the breed. (I like this one the most!)
The Kennel Club breed standard states that a variety of colours are permissable but white should never predominate. Coats can be either moderately long or smooth.  What wonderful variety!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Diva Dogs Day - Sunday 30th September

 What do you think about dogs dressing up?  Quite a contentious issue in some circles. Is it a bit of harmless fun at dog shows, or do you feel the need to express yourself through your dog by buying him or her expensive outfits?
 Whatever your feelings on the subject lots and lots of people enjoy entering their dogs in fancy dress competitions!  Well, next Sunday 30th September you can certainly have fun at Diva Dogs Day at Brook Farm Training Centre, Stapleford Abbots, Essex RM4 1EG. Here they are making a Guinness World Record Attempt at the most number of dogs in fancy dress. You can join in too if you come along and help break the record!
 If it is just a bit of fun at the weekend, and the costume comes off at the end of it then I think it is great fun.
Make sure your dog is comfortable and happy at all times. Just because you like it, it doesn't mean that your dog is having fun as well. Think of your dog's welfare first at all times, but have fun!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Window of Opportunity

There is an absolutely critical period in a dog's social development when its experiences are absolutely vital to the rest of its life.  This window of opportunity is called 'The Critical Period'. This period varies from breed to breed but basically it refers to the first few weeks of its life when it goes out and explores the world.  For some breeds like German Shepherd, it starts to feel fear at seeing new experiences as early as 5 weeks old. For other breeds such as the Labrador, this fear period does not start until it is 10 weeks old.  For most breeds this window of opportunity shuts at about 15 weeks old.
Therefore, it is critical to get your dog socialised to the outside world before it starts to feel fear. This is the time to take it out and show it the world. Cars, people, trains, pavements, traffic, cats, children... absolutely everything.  If you miss this opportunity then the dog will never fully become confident around the experience that it has missed.
The most common problem is that your vet will probably advise you not to take your puppy outdoors until it has had its second set of injections at 15weeks. By that time it is too late! You must think of creative ways of introducing your puppy to the outside world as much as possible. Carry it around your local garden centre, put it in a push chair, go for a car ride, make every opportunity you can to introduce your puppy to life before 15 weeks. 
 In one awful case I heard of recently, a breeder recommended that a giant breed should not leave its house and back garden for 6 months until the bones had a chance to develop fully. This dog will never get over this start in life and will lead a fearful life. There is no repairing the damage done.
You must take a calculated risk as to whether you think there is any likelihood of catching these doggy diseases if for instance, you take it for a walk to your local shops. You must weigh up the risks of catching these diseases, with having a well socialised and fear-free dog for the next 15 years or more.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ice Cream for Dogs!

 I was visiting a fundog show in Hampshire last week when I came across a trade stand selling ice cream for dogs!  What a brilliant idea!  Actually it is a really healthy dog-friendly iced treat in a tub which contains pure, raw fruit and vegetable puree, aloe vera juice and flaxseed oil. These are great ingredients and this one is made by but why not trying to make your own at home?
Dogs will love the variety of textures and temperatures in a frozen treat when it gets hot.  You can make their favourite KONG and stuff it with wet food and keep it in the freezer, or why not freeze some vegetables or tiny chicken pieces into some water or home made chicken stock (not stock cubes these are much too salty). Think of your dog in this heat, experiment, give them an iced treat!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Why Reward Based Training Really Works!

Why is there a picture of a Nectar Rewards card on this post?  Well, you may be thinking there is a relevance to the word 'Reward' appearing here when we are talking about dog training and behaviour. You would be right in thinking that, it is the same psychology at work here.
Let me tell you, that I regularly seek out a BP Garage to buy my petrol. Why? because I know that I will be rewarded with Nectar points every time I fill up at a BP Garage.  Even more exciting.. sometimes they run special promotions whereby you might even win a million nectar points if you are really lucky! Jackpot!  I go voluntarily, no one threatens me if I go to a Texaco garage or a Shell garage.  I willingly and happily go to a BP Garage to fill my car up with petrol.  I am rewarded for doing so.
So why is there now a picture of a motorway speed enforcement sign here?  Well, why do I observe the speed limit? Because there is a threat of punishment if I do not.  The evil CCTV camera sign is reminding me that if I do not obey the 40mph speed limit I will be punished with a speeding ticket, points on my driving licence and an expensive fine to pay as well.  How do I feel while I am under this threat? Do I obey? yes I do obey the command to drive at 40mph but I don't feel good about it. What happens when the speed restriction has finished?  I go back up to 70mph (OK sometimes it is a bit faster I admit) and I feel relief when these threats of punishment have ended. Phew!

Are you beginning to see the relevance here with how dogs are trained?  Using reward based methods of training makes your dog feel good when you ask him to do something. He knows a reward is coming when he does it right, and he does it willingly. A whole lot of brain chemicals are produced which makes him feel grrrreat! He feels good, he anticipates a pleasurable experience and he wants to obey your every word! (no really!).  Every so often there might even be an extra special 'Jackpot' reward coming to me but you never know when that might be.

So if I threaten or punish my dog with a painful choke collar, frighten him with loud noises, spray cans, vibrating collars, shout at him threaten him... well yes he is going to obey your commands because he is anticipating punishment if he doesn't. Brain chemicals are produced which make him feel anxious and fearful. When the threats and punishment are not present, he will revert back to his old behaviour, feeling great relief that the threat of punishment is over. 

So if you are looking for a behaviourist or trainer, look for someone who belongs to an accredited body of trained professionals who subscribe to a kind, fair and effective code of conduct.  Reward based training methods are the only way to go. They are not airey-fairy, namby-pamby methods. They Work!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

All About Dogs - Essex

Next weekend 12th & 13th May I will be at the All About Dogs show in Brentwood, Essex.  
I will be with my Blackdog DNA trade stand looking out for mixed breed dogs.   This show will also be one of the National Heats for the Kennel Club Scruffts competition. A Nationwide dog show specifically for mixed breed dogs.
Another highlight for me will be the Dock Dogs.  What an amazing sport, I took this picture at the Newbury show a couple of weeks ago.  Way to go Digger!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

A Busy Bank Holiday Weekend

It's going to be busy next weekend. I am taking my trade stand to 3 different shows. Let's hope the weather is better than this last weekend.

Saturday 5th May - Crossroads Kennels, Milton Keynes, MK17 0RD 11am
        They are having a Fun Day and Fundog Show to raise funds for tyhe Labrador Lifeline Trust.

Sunday 6th May - National Animal Welfare Trust, Watford, WD25 8WT
        They are having an open day and a fundog show to rais money for the charity.

Monday 7th May - The Barking Mad Dog Show, Broom, Biggleswade, SG18 9NN
         They are having a fundog show to raise money for Hounds for Heroes.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Lumpless Labrador

I don't think Leo will forgive me for making him miss breakfast yesterday morning!  Poor sausage had to go to have a lump taken off at the vet.  Quite wobbly on his feet last night, but much more with it this morning when he gulped down a hearty breakfast!  All systems heading back to normal, apart from the dreaded lampshade on his head!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Happy Hounds!

I spent a lovely weekend at Newbury Showground at the Wallingford Dog Training Club agility meet. The whole weekend was like a breath of fresh air for me.  As a behaviourist I spend most of my time dealing with, reading about, or studying dogs with behavioural problems which are usually brought about in some way by humans!
 But here were hundreds and hundreds of happy, happy dogs.  Owners who want to give their dog a good and meaningful life.  People having fun outdoors, running alongside their dogs who were having an amazing time.   Lots and lots of Border Collies were having the time of their lives.  This type of herding dog very often experiences behavioural problems when owners do not take account of their strong, working drives.  The outlet of being able to run around an agility course allows them to stop, start, watch their owner, jump, change direction, run and satisfy many of their innate needs.
In fact Border Collies are SO good at agility that another class of agility has been formed to allow other breeds a look in!  If you have a Weimaraner, Great Dane, Dachshund, or mutt you can enter them in the 'ABC' class -- Anything But a Collie!!!  Any collies, or collie cross-breeds are not allowed to enter.  So how can you tell whether they are a collie cross-breed or not?
 Blackdog DNA will tell you what the genetic heritage of your dog really is!  Simples!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Keeping in Touch

Networking is a wonderful thing. Not only can you enjoy the company of likeminded people, it can be really good for business too. If you are just walking your dog in the local park, then networking and chatting to other dog walkers is a fun and sociable thing to do. You can keep up with all the local doggy gossip (so can your dogs by the way) and important information can come your way. In my local park, someone has been putting down poison for dogs, knowing this can keep your dog safe from harm.
If like me, you are a professional in the dog world, then networking with other trainers, behaviourists, breeders, vets and dog minders and walkers is a really great thing to do. I never see other behaviourists or trainers as a threat to my business. We need to swap ideas, keep in touch, learn from each other, swap news, promote each others' businesses and if you are lucky you will also make friends with likeminded people.
I like to keep up to date with continuing education and training, any individual with a professional skill should do the same. I never stop learning and I am passionate about discovering the doggy world around me, and immersing myself in 'all things doggy' (quite literally sometimes!). I have seen boxers boxing, spaniels spanieling and pointers pointing! No amount of information is too small to lock away somewhere for a rainy day. For instance...
Today I was on a seminar about the different needs that different dogs have, according to their hard wired genetic breeding. Retrievers retrieve...of course. But what were Chow Chows bred to do? (you know the fluffy ones with the black tongues?), well nothing... they were bred to be eaten, as a food source in China - hence the word chow...ugh!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Help! My dog won't play!

I've come across more and more people who tell me that their dog will not play. Just not interested in toys, rough and tumble, retrieving balls or any kind of fun games. Well until we re-homed this Labrador bundle of fun, I too had a dog that was not interested in play.

Play is an activity or skill which needs to be learnt. It does not come naturally to all dogs and if this dog has missed out on a good early start in life, or with owners that didn't have the time to play then it may never learn. But it is never too late to start! You can teach an old dog new tricks! In fact, an old dog is more capable of learning new tricks because he has had a lifetime of learning what the rules of the game are!

So the rules of the game are; If I do something that my owner wants me to do, I get a treat! By getting a treat, little amounts of happy chemicals are released into the dog's brain. Hey, let's do that again and I might get another treat! You must also be prepared to make a bit of an idiot of yourself, by squealing and yipping and looking as if you are having a great time yourself! Keep the individual training sessions down to no more than 5 minutes each. As with my last dog Buddy, he was 10 years old before he learned to play, it took almost a year to do, but we made it!

Humans must be prepared to get down and dirty on the carpet, roll on the floor and make stupid noises! You must let go of all your inhibitions for your dog's sake! Remember, playing is a skill which needs to be learned.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Saint Roch - Patron Saint of Dogs!

On holiday in Madeira recently I made a special journey to a little town called Sao Roque, just outside the capital Funchal. Just one church in the town and not much else. The reason for this visit, you might call it a pilgrimage, was to visit the church. Saint Roch is the patron saint of DOGS! If you look closely at this photo you will see the dog with a loaf of bread in its mouth!
Saint Roch, also named Rocco or Rock was born in Montpellier. On his way to Rome he was ministering to the sick and poor when he himself fell ill. Struck down with the plague he was expelled from the town of Piacenza in Italy where he went into the woods to try to survive on his own. He would have died but for a dog that belonged to a local nobleman. This dog brought him a loaf of bread each day and gradually licked his wounds clean! Saint Roch survived and was hailed a saint! (personally I think the dog should have some recognition..)
So, according to the Catholic church, Saint Roch is the patron saint of DOGS!.. also the patron saint of knee pain, diseased cattle, the patron saint of falsely accused people and of surgeons! and about a hundred other worthy causes!