Posted on Leave a comment

Dogs Talk – new book published

After eight months of writing, re-writing, editing, re-reading and proof checking, I am pleased to say I have finally published my second book “Dogs Talk – Four Dogs Tell Their Stories”. The original idea actually came from a journal kept a few years ago by a dog called Kika.

Kika the sight hound
Kika

Kika came to stay with us while her owner was in hospital. Kika had many issues and was what could best be described as a badly behaved dog. I say this as an experienced dog psychologist who has helped a number of problem dogs over the years.

George the Anatolian shepherd
George

In an attempt to explain some of the principles of dog psychology to her owner without sounding bossy or patronising, Kika kept a journal. The idea was that Kika’s explanations, from a dog’s perspective, would help Kika’s owner better understand Kika’s needs. By doing so, Kika would become both happier and better behaved. I added a number of useful pointers at the back. It was called the Kika Chronicles.

Maxi the terrier
Maxi

Over the years, I have had a number of dogs, each a rescue dog and each with it’s own set of issues. Building on the idea of the Kika Chronicles, I wrote three sections, one for each dog, relating their experiences on moving in with me. Each is written as though it is the dog telling its own story.

Haribo the tri-colour collie
Haribo

The three dogs are quite different in terms of breeds, needs, issues and temperament. Each presented a unique challenge. All benefitted and became happier and more balanced dogs.

To find out more, read on…

Posted on Leave a comment

Bot’s explosive bot

Hario the tri-colour collie

We have two dogs here, George and Haribo and both have a number of pet names. For example, George is often called “G” and Haribo “H”. Haribo also gets called “Bot”. This is a shortened version of “Haribot” which was spawned during the period Britain had the “maybot” as prime minister.

Anyway, recently, Haribo(t) has taken to leaving us presents in the night. These are not pleasant presents, in fact they are night time poos. These have been coming in various sizes, textures and smells, all spread across a wide area (as collies like to do) and all of which are not a lot of fun to clean up. Not every night, but pretty much one night in two. As you can imagine, we didn’t take photos.

We tried the most likely approaches of which, top of the list, was a good worming. A good wormer was procured from the vet but it only seemed to help for a week or so. We wormed him again with much the same result. The night time poos continued to adorn the morning living room floor.

We switched both dogs’ meals so that they got their large meal in the morning and a snack in the evening. Still the poos came. We were scratching our heads. Haribo is only eight so it shouldn’t be an age related issue.

Finally, the penny dropped. Haribo had become quite overweight a while back and so his food was reduced. While doing wonders for his shape and fitness, his tummy is still in denial. As such, Haribo has honed his scavenging skills. Now, we knew he had a pretty stronge urge to eat poo. He likes sheep poo the best, but any poo will do. Because of this, we had been keeping an eye on him. However, like most dogs, he knows exactly when he’s not being watched. As soon as he thinks the coast is clear, he’ll scavenge a bit of poo. Leave him in a down, turn your back, wait a few seconds and turn back and he’ll still be in a down. However, it won’t be where you left him. He’ll have shuffled over a bit, scoffed a quick poo and will be lying there licking his lips with a “butter wouldn’t melt” expression.

So, we tried an experiment – we put him on a lead. That might sound like no big deal but normally the dogs get to roam freely when we walk through our fields. Not that freely, truth be told, as Haribo’s partner in crime, George, also has a bit of a scavenging habit, but that’s another story. Anyway, by keeping Haribo close, we have managed to block his poo eating efforts. And it has worked, we are now getting up in the morning to a clean living room floor. Bliss! Also, Haribo likes being on the lead. Well, he’s a collie and they like being given something to do even if it’s just an instruction to walk next to you.

The whole episode has spawned a new musical ditty, often to be heard being sung around the house – “no shitee in the nightee”

Posted on Leave a comment

Haribo Wins Top Dog Award

Haribo came to live with us a few years ago.  He came to us unwanted by his previous owner and with a list of issues over two pages long.  Most of those issues disappeared fairly quickly, but one endured.  Haribo was very scared of dogs he didn’t know and this led to a fear aggression response.  His coping strategy was to get the first attack in.

This made walking a bit of a problem, but as we were aware of this, we were able to control him.  Over time and under George’s wing (George is our Anatolian Shepherd), Haribo’s general behaviour improved, but the fear aggression stayed. In the last few months, we have noticed that Haribo just seems to have become more relaxed.  He has a very stable life here and plenty of space.  He and George are best mates and he also likes Maga, the collie who lives nearby.

Last weekend, a neighbouring cottage had visitors coming and they were bringing a dog.  A small terrier.  She’s a very relaxed dog, they told us.  Hmm, the words ‘terriers’ and ‘relaxed’ don’t often appear in the same sentence.  When I worked as a dog behaviour consultant, most of my clients were owners of small terriers.  Anyway, I said I’d manage the introductions.  On Friday afternoon, I picked up the collar and lead, but I couldn’t find Haribo anywhere.  In the end I went to the neighbour’s cottage.  Both George and Haribo really like our neighbours and Haribo often camps in their garden where it’s cool and shady.

Sure enough, there he was, fast asleep in their porch.  It turns out they had already met, Haribo and the terrier that is, and nothing had happened.  Just a small growl from the terrier, apparently (no surprises there).  We are amazed.  The first time Haribo has met a strange dog and not gone to level 10 in an instant.  He has done well.

slimline Haribo

His second achievement is that he has lost somewhere in the region of 7Kg.  Around the turn of the year, we noticed he was looking a bit porky so we cut his food a bit.  It’s our fault really, feeding him too much and not noticing the him slowly getting fatter.  Nicole discovered some lumps so we took him to the vet.  He’d already lost some weight but he was still around 7Kg overweight.  So, we cut his food a bit more.  The fatty lumps turned out to be benign and now have disappeared.  We weighed him again recently and he’s down to 28kg, much closer to his target weight of around 25kg.

He also has much more energy and is definitely enjoying his walks more.

So well done Haribo.  Given one of his previous issues was raiding bins, it’s gratifying that even with his diet, this never happens.  In fact, we can leave the animal room open (where we store animal feed including dog biscuits) and they never help themselves.

Pack leadership really works wonders for dogs.

Posted on Leave a comment

George and Ursi – A Dog and Sheep love affair

Ursi and George

Every now and then, a story pops up somewhere about dogs and sheep. It’s pretty much always bad news, sheep have been killed by someone’s pet dog. In fact, the biggest threat to sheep is the domestic dog. It happens round here sometimes too. To be honest, one of the reasons I gave up working as a dog behavioural therapist was that I got fed up with dog owners’ unshakeable belief that their pooches could do no wrong.

Anyway, our dogs have been conditioned to respect sheep. George is an Anatolian Shepherd and his breed was created to guard livestock. Haribo is a collie and should be inclined to round them up, but has never shown any inclination to do so.

George and Ursi
George and Ursi

George is actually very good with the sheep. Given the chance he will groom them, licking their faces and ears and even their backsides. He particularly likes a messy sheep’s bottom! Haribo tends to give them a bit of a wide berth. I think he got butted a while back (before the sheep had got to know him), but he’s getting a bit more confident with them now.

One of our ewes, Ursi, now seeks George out whenever he’s over there. They have developed quite a strong friendship and it’s lovely to see, It is George and Ursi shown in the picture.

So it shows, dogs and sheep can go together. If the dog owners know what they are doing.

That said, when we take our dogs for walks in other places, we always have them on leads around others’ livestock. George and Haribo may be fine with our sheep, but our sheep don’t run away from them. Dogs are hunters and if something runs, they will instinctively go after it and all the training is forgotten in an instant.

I have never forgotten a moment when I was a teenager in Edinburgh. I was heading to the bus stop and passed a huge St Bernard sitting in a driveway. It watched me walk past with rapt attention. Everything was fine until I saw my bus coming and had to break into a run. As I ran to the bus stop, I heard a noise behind me and turned to see said St Bernard hurtling after me. I stopped and swore at it (basically challenged it in dog speak) and it froze mid stride. I slunk round the corner, sprinted and just caught my bus. I looked out the window and the St Bernard was still standing there, mid stride, looking mildly puzzled.

Any dog, no matter how well trained, has a very strong chase reflex.

Posted on Leave a comment

Blackberries and dogs

blackberries

As the seasons march on and autumn descends up on us, more quickly this year it would seem, the berries begin to ripen.  And now, in the fields and lanes around us the blackberries are ready.

Now, we have quite a lot of mature brambles on our patch.  Most of the year, this is not good news, but now they are laden with tasty fruit.  All of a sudden, brambles are good.

So, with dogs in tow, I set off for our orchard and woodland.  Covering over 3 acres, it’s full of adventure for dogs.  Moles, pheasants and all sorts of wildlife leave exciting smells and trails to follow.  Paradise for dogs.  And they love it.

until….

you stop to pick blackberries!

Then this happens:

maxi-blackberry-picking

Off lead, no restraints, wide open space, but no, so much better to sit with a face like a slapped kipper.  I have never fully understood this, nevertheless, I carried on picking and left her to it.  Our other dog, George, also lay down but seemed more content to wait for me to finish.

Net result, a tray of lovely blackberries to help flavour our apple crumbles throughout the winter months.  Yum!