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Saturday, 31 October 2009

First fireworks season

Last night for the first time this year we had noticeable firework noise. We have a gorgeous three month old pup, Socks, for whom this was a new experience.
We turned the TV up a bit and tried to pretend it was perfectly normal to be in the middle of a World War and Socks was curious at first but seemed not too worried by it.
We didn't have a plan, should we have been getting her ready somehow? Have we left it too late?
Is it best to keep her inside after dark until this passes or might we convince her its normal if we take her out on a lead and just reassure her.
Be grateful for any hints as to how to make sure we have a bomb proof pup!
Marco, by email

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Et tu Cesar?

I am quite nervous to ask this question having read the last few issues of Dogs Today! But what is so wrong about us trying to be the top dog, surely wolves have alpha males and females. Don't we have to be dominant to keep all the pack in order?
All this reward based stuff is all very lovely in principle, but if we're not assertive surely these dogs will walk all over us.
Those insiders that understand the ins and outs of the divide can you explain it to us normal pet owners who don't know the difference - why shouldn't we be listening to the dog whisperers?
And who is on which side?
For example is Victoria Stillwell on the good side?
Is Jan Fennell? In or out?
Can't really get my head around what is acceptable and isn't.
Smacked bottoms and rolled up newspapers - definitely out?
Choke chains - obviously a no no?
Always going through doors first? Always eating first? Not allowing dogs up on the bed or sofas. Dark side or good side?
What if a dog keeps barking. biting - is correction or punishment ever acceptable to the reward-based folk?
Please help guide a novice pet owner who is struggling to understand what all the fuss is about!
I watch Cesar Millan on TV and really enjoy it. Just can't see what this big split in the behaviour world is all about. Isn't it just a ratings clash? He's the big star at the moment and we Brits just love chopping down those tall poppies! Or is there really some science that shows that reward based is more effective than punishment?
Name and address withheld! (I'm a coward!)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Difficult decision

I have just returned with my 10 year old Labrador Retriever from the vet. Four weeks ago he underwent x-rays as he was not putting his hind right leg down. The x-rays were fine and showed that his knee and hip joints were good. Now, four weeks later and with the problem
My vet after examination thought another x-ray was needed. I have now been told that my beloved Storm has a very aggressive tumour in his hip joint and it can be clearly seen in the x-rays as is joint which looked so good four weeks ago has now being eaten away quite dramatically. I now have to decide whether to get his leg amputated hopefully getting rid of the tumour or have him put to sleep. I would be grateful for any advice that could help me come to a decision that would be in my beloved Storm's best interest. Has an older dog of this size coped with having his leg amputated, and went on to have a good quality of life? Would it be kinder to let him go? I would be very grateful for any feedback . My only thought is to do what is right for my beloved Storm.
Thanking you in anticipation of a speedy reply as time is of the essence.

Dear Ian

I hope you don’t mind but I have put this question up on the Think Tank so others can share their experiences. It is very difficult to decide whether it is better to treat or to just make comfortable and there is no right or wrong answer, you have to go with your instinct.

There are many dogs who cope well with amputation – in fact we formed a special three legged dog agility team a few years ago and were vastly oversubscribed! I think it is worth asking the vet how good your dog’s other hip is, how heavy he his and how strong his front legs are – if he has a strong other leg then he will probably cope very well. But you have to look at how invasive the treatment will be after amputation and if the time it buys you is worth the upset. Is managing the symptoms with strong pain relief a possibility? I’d ask lots of questions about prognosis and actual duration of treatment with the amputation option so you can make an educated choice. Dogs generally cope very well on three legs – so if that is your only concern I have known dogs bigger than Labs cope with losing a leg. Generally a front leg is much more difficult for heavy dogs to lose.

You have a difficult time ahead, I am sure others who have been through the same thing will give their input, too

Best wishes

Thank you for your quick response to my e-mail of 26th Oct. After talking to my vet and reading different blogs i made the decision to have Storms leg amputated. I don't know if this will save him but i felt i owed him the chance. The agreement was that the vet would x-ray his chest and if this was clear he would proceed with the op. Thankfully his x-ray was clear and the amputation was done on Wed 28th. He came home on Thurs 29th and has adapted very well to having his leg removed. I was very interested to read that you had used a vet John Carter and his alternative treatment for cancer and feel that would be a good way to treat my beloved Storm . I know that sadly John Carter has died but that the treatment has since been licenced . I would be most grateful if you could give me some advice/pointers that would help me in this quest. I know diet plays a big part but have no idea what i should be feeding Storm. Once again thank you for your help and advice. I look forward to your reply.

Many thanks, Ian

Hi Ian and anyone else interested in John Carter's amazing work, we have a separate blog on this very subject. Click here to be taken to a round-up of all the info. Good luck Ian and delighted to hear that the op went well and Storm has coped with the amputation so well, dogs really are remarkable.
Perhaps you can tell Storm's continuing story via the CV247 blog? Hope it works out for you. It is a very gentle method that either works or doesn't with no nasty side effects. It's also something you can try without sending your dog away for invasive or distressing treatment. I have to say that diet is key to success and those that do well tend to follow it to the letter. There's lots of wonderful people out there who have followed the regime and can pass on tips.
Best wishes

Friday, 23 October 2009

Does road-kill kill?

When I go dog walking I sometimes see dead wild animals on the road - squirrels, rabbits, foxes and even once very sadly a badger. Someone once told me that you should move them off the road as their relatives may get run over when they go to investigate why their loved one isn't moving. Is this an old wives tale? I'm not sure I could bring myself to move a dead animal.Can you call the council or anyone else to move these bodies? Where do you move them to? Surely they can't go in the general refuse?

A dead animal should be moved - but only if it is safe for you to do so. Move it well on to the verge or better still deep in to the hedgerow where it can provide food for other animals. (Buzzards and corvids, for example, rely on roadkill as a major source of food.) However, please wear gloves and in any case you should double-check that the animal is dead before attempting to move it. Be sure to look for any signs of life. Otherwise you could be putting yourself in danger. Any wounded animal, especially a badger and fox, will try to defend itself, even if it is very seriously injured and weak.
Simon Cowell MBE, Wildlife Aid

Nearly deer departed

I watched in horror as someone else's dog chased a young deer onto the road and into the path of a car. The deer was hit very hard and the dog had a glancing blow. The dog's owner took both animals to her vet and I later discovered the deer had to be PTS as it was so badly hurt. It's made me think what if I hit a deer in my car, what am I legally meant to do? Should I take them to the vet? Phone the RSPCA? What if the deer is still conscious and you're on your own. How on earth would you get an animal in pain into your car?
Gareth Jones, Ottershaw

A dog's natural instinct is to hunt and chase - and this can be extremely dangerous when near a road, which is why it is so important to train a dog to come when called. In the case of a wild animal being knocked down and injured on the road, there are certainly some vets who would try to save the creature but some would automatically PTS. The best thing is to contact your nearest wildlife centre (Wildlife Aid covers Surrey and surrounding areas) or RSPCA. If you find an animal that has been injured on the road, please - where possible, and without putting yourself or other road users in any danger - try to protect the animal by screening it with your vehicle . If available you could cover the animal including its head with a sheet or blanket. But don't stay close to it or attempt to cuddle or nurse the animal as this would put them under enormous stress - and could be very dangerous. We had one case where a deer had been knocked down and the driver attempted to move the deer themselves; they brought it into Wildlife Aid and, amazingly, had put it on the back seat of their car, on the next seat to their child. I dread to think what might have happened if the deer had woken up as this deer had huge antlers and would undoubtedly have caused a terrible accident if it had woken up. Luckily it was unconscious for the entire duration of the trip to Wildlife Aid. I cannot emphasise enough that only trained and experienced animal handlers should move an injured animal.

Simon Cowell MBE, Wildlife Aid

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Chicken or beef... or indeed pork or lamb?

I was always told not to feed dogs pork...........but why? I spoke to some folk the other day who were telling me how they fed their dogs during war time. The dogs had whatever was on offer and appeared to thrive - including pork. It would be interesting to have some views. A pet nutritionist once told me that rabbit was the best protein for dogs and she was amazed how little this figured in UK dog food. All the manufacturers prefer chicken - even most non-chicken brands do in fact contain chicken derivatives. [We have a dog allergic to chicken but that's another story...] So what is best? Lamb? Beef? What do the experts say?
Wendy Harris, via email

Richard Allport, alternative vet, says...
The only reason that pet food manufacturers prefer chicken is because it is cheap. I’ve never seen any evidence to back up the old wives’ tale that dogs shouldn’t eat pork. Any good quality protein source – fish, chicken, lamb, rabbit, beef, venison and pork is fine in my view, unless a particular dog has a known allergy or intolerance to any specific protein. I’m sure there are some dogs that don’t assimilate pork well, but that can occur with any other meat, including chicken, as your dog has found out. A variety of foods is best and there is nothing wrong with pork as part of the variety unless proved otherwise.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Going underground

My Flat Coated Retriever is too big to carry, so if I use the London Underground I need to plan a route across London that avoids escalators.
Is there anywhere that lists tube stations that have either lifts or stairs? I guess wheelchair users will have similar problems - finding wheelchair friendly stations would help.
Where can I find dog-friendly Underground stations?
Gita Beecroft, via Twitter

Transport for London says…
If you travel with a dog on London Underground you must carry it on moving escalators. This is for the safety of the dog as it could be seriously injured if it gets caught in the moving components of the escalator.
If your dog is too big to carry, you can use TfL’s Journey Planner to plan your journey using public transport and avoiding escalators. The Journey Planner tool can be found on the right hand side of the home page of TfL’s website,
The ‘Advanced options’ include a choice of mobility requirements to be taken into account when planning your journey. By ticking the option ‘I cannot use escalators’, Journey Planner will return a list of travel options avoiding escalators. These recommended routes will only use London Underground stations which have stairs or disabled access.
Journey Planner also takes engineering works and line closures into account, so checking it before you travel will ensure that you know the best route for that day.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Flea free naturally

I have three Poodles - a Standard, Miniature and Toy. I treat them with Frontline spray, but it doesn't work for my black Toy Poodle, Abby. As a result I bought a cheaper version from the pet shop yesterday, put it on her and for more than 12 hours she was really demented, running around as if she was trying to get away from something and very distressed. I put it down to the chemicals in the spot-on which I used this time.
It was so upsetting to see her like this and I do not like putting chemicals into her body and wondered if there was an alternative. I have tried cider vinegar in the past. I would try to comb the fleas out but with her black curly coated body this makes it impossible. Also I have well-sprayed my house but these fleas seem to be resistant to anything.
Can anyone suggest a solution as I am at my wit's end.
Judith Stephens, by email

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Too much exercise?

I bought Daisy, my five-year-old black Labrador when she was eight weeks old and for as long as I can remember we have been totally inseparable. Unfortunately I fear I may have overdone it with the exercise over the years. Is it possible to have done too much walking with her and what would be the consequences?
I was ill myself at the time and didn't work for many years. To help me cope I would walk and walk and of course Daisy always came with me. Most of the walking was on tarmac roads or hard surfaces. I think somedays we would go out for four to five hours at a time and the mileage would reach 15 miles at least. I hasten to add that this was not when she was a puppy, but started when she was about 18 months old.
However, I have now noticed she often quickly turns to try and 'bite' herself on her hip area and looks at me as if to say, 'Mummy I hurt there, but don't know what's wrong'. Sometimes when she is walking her rear end gives way for a second or so, and yet then carries on as if nothing has happened. If she walks on concrete for about an hour she starts to limp and in the evenings she licks her front paw pads. She is of average weight and is a very healthy, happy, fit dog. I give her cod liver oil capsules and a high strength flexible joint supplement containing glucosamine, omega 3 etc daily.
I have taken her to the vet who is very thorough usually, but he didn't see the need for X-rays. But I know my beautiful Daisy and something isn't right. Have I caused some damage by walking her too far, and if this is the case, is there anything I can do to rectify this? I am worried I have given her a bone problem and can't forgive myself.
Joanne Bedwell, by email

Friday, 9 October 2009

Early start

After reading the litter adverts in the Perfect Pup section of the November magazine could you please tell me how a puppy can be sold as recall trained - as two litters claim to be. Is it really possible now to go and buy a puppy from a litter already trained like that? I guess so if you are happy to advertise them. I expect there will be a rush for them, but I hope the new owners aren't too disappointed.
Margaret Wildsmith, by email

Beverley Cuddy, Editor, says...
There are more and more breeders selling pups part-trained. I think it is an excellent idea. Pups can learn so much, so young. How much easier for new puppy buyers to have a pup that is already housetrained, can walk nicely on the lead and comes back when called. Now that really is going that extra mile for novice owners and helping ensure that your pups do well in their new homes and don't bounce back.

Elaine Day, KC Accredited Breeder, says...
Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone felt confident enough to allow their dogs free running exercise when on walks rather than keeping their dog on a lead because they are afraid it may run off. I have devised a method of recall training which seems to work on every dog that I have tried it on and indeed, our puppies are sent to their new homes at the age of 8-10 weeks completely recall trained using my method.
I am sure that most people have attempted clicker training their dog. Clicker training is a marvellous way of training dogs for some people, but I have found that the vast majority of dog owners find it extremely difficult to master the exact timing required to successfully clicker train their puppy. It often confuses the dog if the timing is not right, which leads to the owner believing that their pooch is one of the untrainables, and they give up.
I only use the clicker to teach the recall to dogs, and the way I train my Deerhound and Whippet puppies is pretty much foolproof. When I decide to start weaning a litter of puppies - usually around 3-4 weeks old - they are fed a complete puppy diet mixed with water until it forms 'puppy porridge'. As soon as the puppies have any of this food in their mouths, I continuously click the clicker so that whilst they are actually eating, they hear the clicker noise. After a few days of this, I can click the clicker when all the pups are asleep, and they will immediately run to where they know their food is. I continue to click the clicker whilst the puppies are eating, so that they associate the noise with food.
Once puppies are allowed outside to play, usually around 4-5 weeks old depending on the weather, I wait until all the puppies are exploring and playing with each other, and then give just one or two clicks. The puppies rush to me and are rewarded with a tasty treat (I use cat biscuits at this stage, as they are small and very tasty). The treat is thrown onto the ground and the clicker used whilst the pups are enjoying their treat. I continue this training until the puppies go to their new family, when a demonstration is given.
I then tell the new owners that when they are out with their puppies, a couple of simple rules need to be adhered to so that this method of recall training continues to work. When out on a walk, the treat being used should never be given at any other time, and the clicker should never be used at any other time. This means that the dog will associate the noise of the clicker and that particular treat with going for a walk. When the dog comes back, gently hold his collar whilst he is eating his treat (some dogs learn to eat the treat then do a quick runner!), and every so often, pop his lead on for a few minutes, and then release. This is so that the dog does not associate getting his lead on just at the end of the walk, when he may not be ready to go home. Keep clicking the clicker and rewarding the dog throughout the walk, and always, always give loads of praise when the dog comes back to you. If the dog does not return immediately, still give loads of praise (a dog must NEVER be reprimanded for coming back to you - however late!), but he does not get the tasty treat unless he comes back immediately - he'll soon learn. Don't forget to use a friendly, high-pitched voice when calling your dog back to you, and try turning it into a game, maybe by running away from him to turn it into a chase game. This way, you will be an exciting part of the walk, rather than the person just trying to catch the dog and spoil his fun.
I have successfully trained adult dogs using this method, and I recently boarded a working Cocker Spaniel for five days which had had very little training - her owners said she was untrainable. True, she was a very excitable little girl, prone to leaping about all over the place and wagging not only her tail but her entire body. It had got to the point for the owners where they no longer allowed her any off-lead exercise, as it took so long to catch her after a walk.
I played with her in my garden, and every time she came anywhere near me, I clicked the clicker and threw her a tasty treat. After about ten minutes of this, every time I clicked she ran to me for her treat. She also ran to me for a treat when I hadn't clicked, and I turned my back on her and walked away. After about half and hour, she understood that when she heard the click she would get a treat, but not at any other time. When her owners picked her up after the five days, I had taught her the recall, taught her to walk to heel, and stopped her stealing food - she was actually a very trainable and biddable little dog. I had to then retrain the owners so that they were no longer the ogres that just caught the dog after a walk and went home, but were the dog's point of interest on a walk.
I have even recently trained a horse using this method. Friends have a beautiful Thoroughbred who is stabled at night and turned out in her paddock every day. They would often spend up to two hours in the evening walking round the paddock with a bucket of food, following the tail end of the horse! The horse did not want to be stabled at night and only associated the owners with being caught. I kept clicking, rewarding, then turning the horse away, until after a couple of days the horse wanted to follow me, rather than the other way round.
I know that my method works as I used it on a litter of Whippet puppies some years ago and placed two brothers with their new family. The brothers came back to me after nearly three years for a holiday whilst their owners were away and I asked if they still used the clicker method of recall, but was told the Whippets now came back to their names. I took them out for a walk with my 10 dogs off-lead, and clicked the clicker, and these two dogs returned to me immediately. I was truly amazed that they had not heard the clicker since they were eight weeks old but they still remembered what it meant!
If you walk your dog where other dog owners may use the clicker method of training, you can very easily use another noise. Just for fun, I used to use a duck call which I purchased from a country fair, and would go around the park quacking at my dogs. It doesn't matter what you use as long as the noise and the treat are only used when out on the walk, and never at any other time.
When I am out with my own dogs - two Miniature Poodles, three Deerhound, four Whippets and a very naughty six-month-old Hancock Lurcher - I can get them all to run back to me if I hear a horserider or hikers. Rather then throwing their treats on the ground immediately, I hold them in my hand and all the dogs stand at my feet looking up at me waiting patiently. This looks incredibly impressive to the passers-by, but I know it only works because they are waiting for the release of the treats - still, no point sharing all my secrets with everyone, is there?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Comfort levels

My two-year-old Whippet Bingley is a happy, healthy little chap with a very caring home and a Whippet companion aged six with whom he gets on wonderfully. He is a little highly strung about some things, a bit nervous of big, bouncy dogs and is a little anxious about some men and ladies with loud voices. He isn't worried about guns or fireworks and is quite obedient and affectionate.
What I want to undertand is why he often gets hold of his large woolly toy and holds it tightly in his mouth for quite a while, often whining quietly? He will then often start licking it for quite a long time so I have to wash it frequently. He seems to do this when we come back after being out and he has been left behind. He also does it after his evening meal and always brings it with him to the sofa in the evening when he sits by me. He does seem to do it when I feel he is happy. He seems very intense when involved with this toy and you can't get him to leave it - he doesn't get cross, just hangs on determindly! I once thought it was sexual but he doesn't show any mounting excitement and was castrated anyway at 14 months owing to an undescended testicle and this behaviour was already apparent. Is it a sort of security thing do you think?
Bingley was born in a very good kennels, but his Mum went back to her owner when he was just under six weeks as there were only three pups who were weaned and thriving. We had him at eight weeks of age and he has been a delight. I have had four Whippets, Bingley being my fourth and I have never experienced this with any of the others, although they have all always brought us a toy on our return from being out.
He does spend quite a bit of time washing his front and back legs and I know this can be an anxiety problem, although I did discover harvest mites on him recently which have been dealt with. He doesn't have any skin problems.
Ruth Pritchard, Blandford, Dorset

This behaviour does sound like a security problem, although I claim no special skills in dog psychology. On the other hand I feel I can offer some useful insight into the excessive washing of his legs. This is not necessarily an anxiety problem as you suggest - I think this relates more to some minor skin discomfort which could in time escalate into a problem skin disorder. As a student of Traditional Medicine who tries to view mental and physical health in the round (i.e.holistically) I suggest you look at his diet. Here I must declare an interest as I am the proprietor of Burns Pet Nutrition. There may be an underlying food intolerance at the root of these as yet minor aberrations. You don't mention his diet but I believe that many mental and physical disorders are diet related.
For this you may need some professional advice but a good starting point is to feed a hypoallergenic type diet as his only food (no treats initially). Also, check and if necessary, empty his anal glands; this is a good way to remove toxic wastes from his system.
Best wishes

Elaine Day, Celticmoon Hounds, Dogs Today Advisor, says...
I think this problem will be a difficult one to solve without seeing the dog and his owner in their home whilst this behaviour is taking place, but I may be able to suggest a couple of reasons for this.
Although Bingley was castrated at 14 months, the behaviour was already apparent. It may therefore be learned sexual behaviour, which simply gives Bingley some pleasure.
However, I think it more likely that Bingley simply enjoys the attention he is getting from his owner when he is acting in this
fashion. All dogs would rather have attention - even negative attention - than be ignored, and Bingley seems to be getting a fair bit of attention with this unwanted behaviour. Apparently the toy is often taken away from the dog to be washed - what is his reaction to the loss of his toy? Could the toy simply be removed from Bingley altogether? Does Bingley get attention from his owner when he displays his dislike to certain people, when he licks his legs, when he plays with his toy? It may be time to totally ignore any unwanted behaviour and spend more time interacting with the dog to keep his mind occupied with other
things. Maybe replace the toy with a Kong, or play a retrieve game with him.
I think it is possible that Bingley has learned to elicit a lot of attention from his owner from his slightly odd behaviour, and the more he does it, the better the attention!
Again, I must reiterate that without seeing the dog, his body language and his owner's response, it is very difficult to say for certain what the problem is and how it can be rectified. It may be a good idea to find a good dog behaviourist to visit Bingley in his home to really see what the problem is.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The lawn ranger

Since we acquired a female puppy in early May our little lawn has become a complete wreck, mostly bare earth with just a few pathetic strands of grass here and there. They say you should teach the puppy to pee and poop in just one area but as our garden is so small, and is nearly all grass - or was! - that would impossible.
I tried the Dog Rocks, which you put in the drinking water, and they made absolutely no difference at all. I tried watering where she had peed but this meant I had to watch her like a hawk and keep rushing out with the watering can in my hand - hopelessly impractical. Next I decided to hose down the whole lawn morning and evening, in the hope of diluting the urine, but that didn't work either and the ground became much too wet.
Last weekend I was visiting a friend who also has a female dog and a tiny garden but to my amazement her lawn was unmarked by any unsightly patches. She told me she puts a teaspoonful of tomato ketchup in her dog's food and this apparently does the trick.
My friend also said she'd heard tomato juice was best of all but because she doesn't like it herself, and didn't want to throw the surplus away, she opted for ketchup.
Does anyone know if using either tomato juice or ketchup is OK for the dog's health? And if using the ketchup, should it be the low salt, low sugar version?
Julia Lewis