May issue

May issue
May issue

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

What does a neck nibble mean?

I have two dogs, a German Shepherd bitch Sasha and a Lurcher dog Jake. When we get ready to go out for a walk, Sasha always nibbles on Jake’s neck. Jake clearly agrees with this as he’ll stand exactly under her nose, practically offering his neck to nibble on and will reposition himself to make himself “available” if I push Sasha out of the way. I find it mildly irritating as it makes it more difficult to disentangle the dogs to get their leads on. Also, last time Sasha unintentionally caught Jake’s skin and hurt him (which he very loudly objected to). Sasha used to do the very same thing with her previous canine companion, a Greyhound dog, who also stood there insisting on his neck being nibbled at. She didn’t do it to the castrated male greyhound we also used to have. It clearly means something to them, but what? Does anybody know?
Many thanks and best regards,
Dominique (in Manchester)

Dear Dominique
Thank you for your post. Without seeing this behaviour it sounds like low intensity rallying behaviour. Wolves when preparing to go hunting will often muzzle hold, yap and howl to work everyone up before setting out. If your dog only does this when going for a walk I’d suggest it is a form of this. Alternatively if your dog is a little nervous it could be a way of calming herself down, a bit like sucking on a blanket for human children. Jake offering his neck is also a normal behaviour as lower ranking wolves are often seen grooming and nuzzling high ranking wolves. The turning of the head to expose the neck can show a confident higher ranking wolf as they are confident to allow this to happen. It is observed in the wild a lot. I’d suggest this is all normal behaviour even if it is a little annoying. Bear in mind a full rally is very boisterous so your dog’s behaviour could be so much worse; I hope that consoles you to this miner irritation.

Toni Shelbourne
Education Officer & Senior Wolf Handler
UK Wolf Conservation Trust

Karen Wild, Canine Behavious Counsellor, says...
Without seeing the actual behaviour it is hard to interpret - I often ask my clients to video their dogs to help me see. However I would say that if the nibbling appears only at these times we would need to look at the chain of events building up to, during and immediately after the walk. Is Sasha excited, or maybe a little stressed? Often a stressed or aroused dog will lick and chew and often will direct this to the nearest dog or human. Perhaps you could try providing Sasha with something else - very tasty - to nibble on whilst getting both dogs ready. This would give her something to do with her mouth rather than nibble on the other dog. At the same time I would look for other body signals such as licking lips, yawning, shaking herself as if wet, and so on. These are signs that she may be a little anxious and can be helped enormously with some desensitisation work. I have seen dogs becoming agitated before walks, usually because the dog pulls on the lead or dislikes its harness and so on. It might even be worth checking with your vet to ensure she is not in any physical pain, or any other conditions that may cause her to feel stressed. Sometimes it could simply be plain old excitement, so more control at these times is essential. A nice, calmly and thoroughly taught sit stay will mean that Jake is not likely to get a neck pinch again! It also means that going for a walk will be a pleasant and safely predictable event, for everyone concerned.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Fear of Flying

I live overseas with my French Griffon called Bracken. I am due to
return to the UK soon and will fly Bracken home with me (under the
PETS scheme), however, I am worried about the plane journey of 7 hours
for Bracken. I have a friend who is also returning to the UK around
the same time. Bracken is best friends with her dog. Would the trip
be less stressful for Bracken if both dogs were on the same flight or
would it not make any difference? I am in more of a panic about this
than relocating to the UK after 18 years overseas!

Isobel Salmond

Friday, 14 May 2010

Is East Lindsay Council dog friendly?

We have lived in North Devon for the last five years and have found it to be the most dog friendly area we have ever found.
However, we will be moving to Lincolnshire soon, specifically in the East Lindsay Council District area and were extremely worried by how anti-dog they appear to be. We could not find a pub where the dog was allowed whilst we were having a meal and the overall impression was that they were very anti-dog. As our dog is a major part of our life it would be very disappointing if we moved and then found it unsuitable.
I wondered if anyone who lives in the area could let me know how they find it. We are looking at the area between Lincoln and the coast near to one of the market towns in a village, the nearer the coast the better.
Carol Scott, by email

I cannot help you with respect to this Council, but this did bring to mind one of my moans about going to pubs with dogs. As a non-smoker, I have been thrilled with the transformation inside pubs but when I want to sit outside, or if dogs are not allowed in the pub, then I am back to having to put up with other people’s smoke.
I particularly remember one beautiful summer’s evening whilst on holiday in Cornwall two years ago. We had had a wonderful day out and stopped at a pub on the way home for a drink before going back to the campsite for supper. Dogs were not allowed in the pub, and it was still too hot to leave them in the car. Unfortunately, the beer garden consisted of a walled area immediately outside the pub with tables in a row. We found ourselves sitting between two sets of smokers and we ended up beating a hasty retreat with dogs and children in tow because it simply was not pleasant nor healthy.
So often I have found myself sitting outside a pub with the dogs alongside smokers as if I am also a smoker. It really feels as if, as dog-owner, I am being tarred (awful pun!) with the same brush as a smoker yet surely we should be entitled to enjoy the fresh air outside as much as a smoke-free environment within the pub.
Mind you, I would really like to see an end to smoking in public places full-stop. Have you experienced walking through blue air to reach the main entrance of a hospital? Extraordinary!
Alison Logan, vet

Monday, 10 May 2010

New pup's first day!

Ferris the German Shepherd pup is nearing the end of his first day at the office and it's been a pretty successful start! He's asleep in his crate. Oscar has a new hobby of looking at the pup and getting as near as possible. Tess only has eyes for his toys and stuffed Kongs.
There's still time to contribute to the Think Tank advice for Ferris and all new puppies - so please do scroll back and pass on your words of wisdom. We'll shortly be editing these down to go in the magazine, so do get your thinking caps on!
Puppy Love 1 -
Puppy Love 1 - Security and fencing
Puppy Love 2 - Feeding
Puppy Love 3 - Insurance
Puppy Love 4 - Toys
Puppy Love 5 - ID - get me back home
Puppy Love 6 - Training
Puppy Love 7 - Poo and wee and other toilet problems!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Keeping the underdog dry

Claire Horton-Bussey's Madi (from Many Tears) is generally thought to be a Corgi-Border Collie cross. She'd like to ask for some help.

"We know her mum was a collie, and she's the spit of a Pembroke Corgi in many respects, not least her short legs! We live in a forest and she runs for miles every day, but she hates her tummy being wet afterwards! She refuses to lie down or stand for what seems like hours when we return from a wet/muddy walk, if her tum is the slightest bit damp!

I've looked at dog coats for her, but really we just need an underbelly protector - she doesn't need a full coat as such. I've found simple underbelly coats, but they all seem only to cover half a tum - I guess to accommodate boy dogs. But we need something that will give her maximum tum protection."

Any manufacturers out there with any suitable products Madi could try? Email and I'll pass the details on.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Our dog is afraid of us, what can we do?

I am almost in tears as I am writing this but I am desperately looking for some help with regards to my Boston Terrier. We have had her for eight months and she is now one year old. The problem we are having is that the dog is petrified of human contact.
We got her from a breeder when she was five months old. The breeder stated that the first owner returned her to them because they could not bond with the dog. Most dogs run up to greet their owner when they return home, well ours runs away from us.
She spends most of her time within the home avoiding her family. We have had her checked out by the vet who thinks that she may have suffered some traumatic event before we got her which has damaged her confidence and that she may also be naturally timid.
We also have spent some time with a behaviourist who shares the same opinion however nothing they have suggested has helped her gain confidence. She attends dog training class an although she does show some interest in some of the other dogs any interaction with people results in extreme fearfulness (trembling, shaking etc).
She is so afraid of her own family that when anyone puts the lead on her before going for a walk quite often results in her losing control of her bowels and she poops on the floor.
Is there anything we can do to help her?
We all love her very much and I always said I would never return her to the breeder but the dog is so afraid of us and seems to be so unhappy that I often wonder if I am doing the wrong thing by keeping her here.
I am afraid that one day her little heart will give out due to her state of mind. Any help by anyone would be greatly appreciated.
Paul Daly, by email

What a very sad story. It does sound like something catastrophic has gone wrong with this little dog's early socialisation. Is there anyone who has overcome such a problem? Any hints you can pass on. I'm emailing to ask for locality as I'm guessing some local assistance may be needed. My instincts are to discover if this was a dog that ended up bonding with another dog not people, perhaps another small dog. Behaviourists, would the presence of another dog that is confident and friendly with people help bridge the gap or just make things worse?
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Quality extra time

I have two elderly Jack Russell crosses (a bitch and male), both neutered who I have owned since they were puppies. One is 11 1/2 and still quite active and able to enjoy walks and play with balls and toys. The older, male is now in his 16th year and having been reasonably active up until earlier this year has now been diagnosed with arthritis in his front legs as well as having a severe heart murmur (caused by an enlarged heart) and a luxating patella in one of the rear legs which latterly has the effect of making them rather wobbly. He has been on Vetmedin and Fortekor for some years which have successfully helped him cope with the enlarged heart and was recently put on a short course of Rimadyl to see if this would help with the lameness on the front leg (assumed to be caused by arthritis). Sadly the Rimadyl appears to have had little affect and he now finds walking quite an effort. Inevitably the heart condition is also deteriorating so even without the lameness, he is increasingly finding activity more of an effort.
I have reduced his walks to two or three very short (10 minutes or so), slow ones a day. However, he has always been a dog who has enjoyed being active and training and although at his age he is sleeping a lot more, I wonder if other readers have any ideas of things I could do with him which do not involve running around but which might give him a little enjoyment and stimulation in what is probably his final year?
Many thanks