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Saturday, 31 July 2010

Can you help training Diva?

Hiya Beverley
I'm practising leash/heel training indoors whilst using my crutches, but I have to use a powerchair outside. I'm worried in case Diva (my Bichon pup) goes under the wheels because the chair is very heavy and, because it's electric, it doesn't stop immediately. Diva had her second jab nearly two weeks ago and can go out properly from next Tuesday. She's fine sitting on my lap in the chair so I'll be able to take her to the park and use the extended leash once we're there and I'm not moving, but I'd like to train her to walk alongside the chair.
I'd also like her to go to training school, and the vet gave me the telephone number of a local trainer but she never answers the phone (I've been trying for two weeks!). Training will have to be in Newham, East London, because I get fatigue as part of my illness and can't travel too far.

I'm hoping Diva has the right temperament to eventually be trained by Dog A.I.D or similar to be an assistance dog for me.
Hope you can help, many thanks for this :-)

Just thought I'd give you an update on Diva. We practised walking on the leash from the wheelchair on the drive on Sunday and Monday, and she naturally walked on my left and slightly behind - the perfect position; clicks and treats galore! I took her to the park today and she walked all the way there and all around the lake - she cadged a lift on the way back though ;-)
Many thanks for your help, and the help of the others on your site. I've left several messages for Dog A.I.D and I'm still waiting for them to get back to me. I don't think the Springer attachment will be suitable - there are no poles on my chair to attach it. I shall persevere with training Diva at home whilst looking for a trainer, I've had dogs before so I know the basics. She can already Come, Sit, Fetch, High Five, Cwtch (get in the crate) and is housetrained and looks at me when I say her name, and she can now socialise with other dogs at the park. Not bad for 12 weeks! I've ordered the book you mentioned and I'm sure that will be very helpful.
Kind regards

I know we have some readers (and one contributor) who are pretty nifty with their wheelchairs and dogs and may have some wise words of encouragement for Shani. 
Anyone able to advise of a good puppy training class that does answer the phone? Diva is on Twitter by the way @DivaBowwow
PS I had a feeling I'd seen a book recently that may help. Tracked it down now: Waggy tails and Wheelchairs by Alexandra Epp - to order call 01305 260068 or go to
It gives advice on dog ownership to wheelchair and scooter users and 50p from each book sold will go to Dogs for the Disabled.


Thursday, 29 July 2010

Colitis advice

Angus, our 12 3/4 year old rescue GSDx has been diagnosed with colitis. We have had dogs all our lives (both of us late-middle age).
We realise now he may have been suffering intermittently for some time but, as he is a scavenger, put earlier attacks down to horrible stuff he'd eaten. Is wormed with Advocate because of his scavenging.
He has a course of anti-biotics and a tube of paste to 'bandage' his intestine and has otherwise recovered within 24 hours.
We wondered what was the best way to manage things now. We're going to a regime of 'little and often' senior diet and thought about probiotic yoghurts and things. Any other tips?

S & J Munroe

It sounds to me as if you are feeling guilty at not spotting that Angus had problems before now. If that is the case, please do not feel guilty because colitis can be hard to diagnose. I suspect that whatever he was eating when scavenging was indeed triggering bouts of colitis but standard treatment for an upset stomach was sufficient. This time, however, he needed additional help with antibiotics and a gut protectant.
Colitis means an inflamed colon. It may develop following a bout of diarrhoea, or it may occur in its own right in response to a particular food or titbit, scavenging or dietary indiscretion, or stress, for example. You may well have some of your own ideas for what is triggering Angus’s colitis. Many dogs prone to colitis do very well on a low fat diet, or a high fibre diet, or a diet with one particular protein. It ishowever, important to stick to a dietary strategy once you have found what suits Angus. That is the key to reducing the risk of further bouts of colitis.
A simple change in the water Angus is drinking can also act as a trigger, such as when you go away. If you suspect this is the case, then try Angus on bottled water at home and if he is fine then give him the same bottled water when you go away. There may also be an element of stress involved since he will be out of his home environment, in which case a pheromone plug-in or spray would be worth considering.
Supplements such as pre- and pro-biotics are certainly worth trying. Above all, though, I cannot over-emphasise how important it is to try to avoid changing Angus’s diet once you have found what suits him. Having needed antibiotics this time, Angus will have been examined by a vet who will be willing to advise on a suitable diet for him, prescription or otherwise, and any other ways of reducing the likelihood of Angus having colitis again.
Colitis is not a pleasant condition for Angus and it is distressing for you as his owners. I do hope you find a simple way of managing it so that he only has rare bouts.
Alison Logan, vet

Any trekers out there?

I have a five year old black lab and I am walking the start of the Devon's Coast to Coast with him, we are hoping to do this every year and would like some help on the kit we would need. Buster (the dog) does not really like carrying things such as harnesses with pockets, collars that hold poo bags, treats etc. or  coats although if there was something that was quite light that he could carry himself then that would be great!
If anyone has done any treks like this and found some things that were extremely useful, for both them and their dogs, on their walk then it would be great to find out!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Is eating rabbit poo safe?

Please can anyone explain my puppy's fascination with rabbit poo? Whilst I have read that it is fairly harmless, if I left him to his own devices, he would hoover up loads of it. How much is harmless, and when does it become a problem?
Lizanne, by email

Sunday, 25 July 2010

If this is typical Westie skin, god help Westies...

I bought my West Highland Terrier, Connor McLeod, from a breeder in Kent, over six years ago, when he was eight weeks old. He always had a very delicate stomach and was sickly until I found a dry food that he got on with and the vets recommended… this was James Wellbeloved.
By the time Connor was eight months old he developed very itchy skin on his feet and began to chew and scratch and his temperament became a little aggravated. I took him to his vet in Kent and they said it was 'typical Westie skin' and I was advised to bathe his feet after every walk and to change his diet.
They recommended Science Plan. This didn’t seem to make much difference, but his skin didn’t get any worse and I continued to bathe his feet in salt water after every walk. By the time Connor was 18 months old (reached adulthood) his skin and mood were perfect, I couldn’t have asked for a happier and better behaved little dog! I thought perhaps his male hormones kicking in or the move to Brighton had cured him.
But by the time Connor was a year and a half something very strange happened. He developed an insatiable appetite for water. It was a very extreme case of constant binge drinking. He began wetting himself and drinking anything he could get to… drinks off tables, puddles, even the sea!
He was so obsessed he would lick the windows if it was raining and cry to go out, so he could lick the ground. He was tested for everything from diabetes to kidney failure, all of which came back negative. I wasn’t allowed to limit his water intake until they had an answer, which made life unbearable for both of us. Eventually he was taken into the vets for a 48 hour, water deprivation test and the outcome was ridiculous. They said that he was in perfect health and was just a little neurotic and had an obsessive-compulsive disorder! This was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard! 
I questioned the food he was eating, but they insisted that it had nothing to do with it and to keep him on the food they had recommended. I then had to measure his water and slowly decrease the amount he was drinking, every week to try and trick him into drinking less. This didn’t work and I doubted he would be drinking so much unless he was genuinely dying of thirst. So I tried changing his diet to wet food, but unfortunately all the food on the market just upset his stomach and made him ill. I tried a raw food diet but the vets didn’t advise it and said it didn’t have enough nutrients and he didn’t like my homemade food anyway. I put up with this for nearly two years and it just became our way of life.
I always looked on the internet and read books/magazines, even asked a couple of editors of dog magazines to see if someone would be interested in doing a story and helping me find an answer. I never gave up.
Then I saw a new food called Naturediet and thought I would give it a go, it was natural, had added nutrients and had to taste better than my attempt! And miracle… it didn’t upset his stomach and he stopped drinking water almost immediately! Naturally this destroyed my faith in this particular vet. Occasionally Connor would have short relapses, where I had to stop him drinking seawater or puddles, but it was just a habit that was easily broken in time. So he must have some allergy/sensitivity to dry dog food - if I give him even a small handful he immediately resorts to binge drinking again, so I don't let him near it at all anymore.
Unfortunately the whole binge drinking and wetting himself cycle had left Connor with a weakened bladder and he was constantly marking his territory, so I spoke to the vet about getting him done. I wasn’t too keen, as I had heard that in older dogs it could cause some unwanted temperament changes or illness. But I was assured that this wasn’t the case. We went ahead with the opp. Connor was five when this was done.

Within a couple of months Connor began to chew his feet again, only this time it was very severe… he began clawing, biting and scratching and made himself bleed. Boredom was never a factor as Connor was lucky enough to be an office dog, having three decent walks a day and surrounded by people he loved. He was always a bit naughty and vocal at times – but that’s Westies!
Anyway… back to the vet…
I was given the diagnosis 'Typical Westie skin' again. Well it's obviously an allergy to something that has always been there, but I feared that his lack of male hormones after his operation had left him with the inability to fight the condition. When I questioned the vet on my theory he shrugged his shoulders and said it may be a possibility. I was devastated - what had I done? Why don't vets know about this? Everyone should be made aware of this if it's a 'possibility'!

I turned into an Internet monkey and bookworm again, trying anything, from aloe vera to talc… I tried bathing him in Marceleb, which the vet swore by, but he hated it and would cry and kick, to the point where I would break down in tears at the horror of how much pain it was causing him.
Eventually I took him to another vet to get a second opinion (my dad took his cats there and recommended him). Connor was put on Atopica… within a few weeks his skin was perfect and his fur had grown back, but he was being sick every day, which wouldn't be good long term and the cost was astronomical! I kept him on the tablets for at least three months and then I had to stop… within two months the skin problem had returned. So Connor was put on steroids – this relieved most of the itching but his toes remained bald. A year ago Connor started to get reoccurring bladder infections, to the point where he was crippled in pain and peeing blood and even after treatment he was slightly incontinent. This happened three times and a couple of months back I decided it couldn't go on. So back to the vet...

In desperation they talked me back onto Atopica… but after two months he has got steadily worse and is the worst he has ever been, he hasn't been sick on them this time, so I'm guessing they just won't work for him anymore. I can’t leave him for a second without him wanted to chew his feet and it has now spread to his belly and is very bad under his chin. I am sick of pumping my poor little dog full of chemicals that have all these terrible side effects and after a while don’t seem to work anyway! He is now on a course of antibiotics as his skin looks infected and piriton allergy tablets to ease the itching. I have him on a new raw food diet, that I buy frozen at the pet shop and add supplements of aloe vera and primrose oil. I bath his feet in salt water every evening and have purchased something new called Dermacton off the Internet which is totally natural and supposed to ease the itching and encourage fur regrowth. This is a soap bar and a spray. I only bathe him when he gets really filthy, but I am using the spray three times a day. It doesn’t seem to bother him, which is a good sign. The vet was disappointed that I didn't want to continue with the Atopica, but I have decided to go for the blood test to test for allergies, for which he has to be free of these drugs for one month. I have heard nothing positive about this testing and found no one that it has worked for it is also extremely expensive, but I am willing to try anything.
He has already been tested for Demodex mites/mange and the result was negative. Connor will be seven in January and spent most of his life suffering, one way or another… But I do everything I can. He keeps his cone on his head at home or he will tear at his skin straight away causing himself to bleed, but on his walks he bounds around happy as ever as long as I keep him playing with his favourite toy. I have to keep his attention on anything but his skin.
Any advice or details of anything I haven’t tried or any success stories would be greatly appreciated. It’s breaking my heart and not a minute goes by that I’m not wracking my brain for something I may have missed.
Donna James, by email

I came across Donna's plight on Twitter while on holiday and promised we'd try to help via Think Tank. Regular readers may remember the case of Lewis the Labrador with terrible skin problems that we featured in the magazine for many years - until at last he received some respite. Poor Lewis's owner received terrible abuse when she walked him as people would see the state he was in and blame his poor owner who literally was doing everything possible to put him right!
I know the readers were fantastic in supporting Lewis's owner and I'm hoping you'll step up to the plate and help Donna and Connor. Eventually there was something suggested that helped ease the symptoms, let's hope the key to putting Connor back together is out there, too.
Twitter only gives you 140 characters so initially I had no idea of the extent of Connor's problems. My first instincts were to suggest Connor try Yumega Plus, but I'm still digesting this full case history.
Anyone got any other bright ideas?
Please share your thoughts here.
Good luck Donna and well done for never giving up hope.
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Pack mentality

I have two Yorkie bitches age six years, both have been spayed at six months. I have had them since they were eight weeks old. When my husband and I retired last year we decided to get an addition to our pack and along came our eight-week-old Cocker Spaniel male puppy, Archie, on 28th Feb this year.
It started off the girls were a bit wary of him - the larger one (14lbs) Jodie was the first to play fight with him and the smaller (4lbs) Jessie stayed well away. This went on for a couple of weeks, and the girls loved the extra treats of little bits of chicken and sausage and scrambled eggs with their normal food (Royal Canin for Yorkies).
Yesterday, Jodie stopped eating and started hiding away from us all, I once found her sat facing the wall, and she gets out of the way when Archie is about. The incident which appears to be the turning point in her behaviour was when little Jessie approached Archie when he was having a snooze and started to ask him to play, bowing and jumping about as she used to do with Jodie and she allowed him to chase her about the room, Jodie who was sitting next to me on the sofa started to shake and shiver.
Having read lots of items on dog behaviour I thought she felt she has lost her position in the pack. My worry is what to do about it, I have tried comforting her and tried also to ignore her. How long will it take for them all to get along, am I
doing something wrong? I have tried to keep their routine the same and the amount of time and attention they receive. Any advice would be appreciated.
Christine Harrison, by email

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Not a fan

Skye my Border Collie is eight years old and I have had him since he was eight months old. He has a lovely temperament and I use him as a PAT dog as he loves people so much.
However, my husband put a ceiling fan up in our bedroom last summer and he immediately became scared of it. Just recently he has become even more terrified of it and he now spends most of his time looking up at ceilings wherever we go. He refuses to go into the conservatory of the Nursing Home where we visit because they have a ceiling fan. Another Home where we visit has high ceilings with chandeliers and he has started constantly looking up at them.
It is becoming an obsession with him and I am finding it very distressing that he is turning into this nervous wreck. Sam, our old Border Collie, died last September and I do feel that Skye has lost a lot of his self confidence since he has been on his own.
Any suggestions for Skye would be so appreciated. I have tried the "come see" command from Carol Price's book, Understanding the Border Collie but to no avail!
Jill Hooker, by email

Dear Jill
Thanks for your posting. It must be really distressing for you to watch and try to manage Skye’s behaviour. I think you have hit on a key point about him losing confidence since Sam past away. The other factor is of course the fan, which in our heads, is a trivial object but to a dog’s perspective a scary contraption.  The fan may make a noise which only he can hear, is he noise phobic at all? It also moves air around and is unfamiliar to him. This type of phobia of course is hard to tackle with traditional training methods as the dog can not keep calm enough to take on commands or work out the fan is not going to cause him harm, he can’t think but reacts on a fear response level. A method of training which might help is Tellington TTouch Training. There are many practitioners around the country now and it’s perfect for these types of issues. Have a look at the national website for more information on the work and to find a practitioner near you. Don’t lose heart, there is help out there.
Toni Shelbourne
Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner 3
Senior Wolf Handler / Editor of Wolf Print

Carol Price, trainer and behaviourist, says...
The kind of problem you describe in Skye can be very common in Border Collies. As highly sensitive, reactive dogs they can be prone to both fearful and more obsessional patterns of behaviour; thus what you can so often end up with is an obsessive phobia like his.
These kinds of phobias can begin at any age, though the older the dog when introduced to something completely new, strange, or previously unknown to him, the more adverse the reaction can sometimes be. Many dogs can also lose general confidence in themselves, or the security of their environment, as they get older, just like people can.
The ‘go see’ or ‘come see’ command—see below—was of no use to you in Skye’s situation, because its effectiveness lies in you having done much prior training in the past, consistently conditioning your dog to associate the words with a positive forthcoming experience. In this case, your dog had already been able to form the impression that ceiling fans are scary, before you could suggest to him that they are positive.
Further, by using ‘go see’ to a dog who has already formed a negative experience with what you are inviting him to encounter, you undermine his trust in the command and run the risk of completely destroying his faith in it for the future.
Fear in dogs can be a massively complex subject, as in each case there will be a different combination of genetic and environmental factors working together. In Skye’s case, however, I am just wondering how much your own reaction to his fear may have worsened the problem?
This is so easy for owners to do, without realising it. The first mistake is to make a lot of fuss when a dog shows fear, or try to soothe/reassure him. This starts the process of reinforcing the behaviour. The next mistake—usually straight after the first!—is to then get exasperated with the dog’s behaviour and keep cajoling him or pressurising him to face what he is afraid of. This can blow the whole issue up into an even bigger deal in the dog’s mind, and prompt even more extreme levels of reaction.
Like fire, once fear takes hold, it can then so rapidly spread; moving on to any object or scenario that even vaguely reminds a dog of an initial big scare. Hence Skye’s constant staring at ceilings, or his reaction to chandeliers.
Your best way forward with him is to first learn to be an awful lot calmer yourself, which in itself is the start of all good leadership. Whenever Skye shows fear, do not react at all. In fact, completely ignore him until he first shows the signs of any more confident behaviour again. Also for the time being, stop taking him to Nursing Homes or other places where he is merely able to keep repeating and reinforcing his fearful behaviour.
You need to get him calmer, and start lowering his existing over-anxious/over-reactive mental state, before then starting a behaviour modification programme to gradually reduce his fear of fans; beginning with small goals and working up.
Such a programme, alas, may be beyond your ability to manage alone and thus I’d recommend you getting some highly skilled professional help, in terms of a behaviourist or trainer who has great experience in rehabilitating fearful dogs.
Someone of the right calibre will know exactly how far to push an individual dog, and when, in terms of getting him over his fears and also be very much in tune with what strategy will work best on which dog and when. People like this aren’t always easy to find, but why not begin by asking your vet or local training clubs if there is someone local they think is suitable or very good? I would start your search as soon as possible, before Skye’s problem gets even worse.
Finally, I find it a bit revealing that you say Skye has lost a lot of confidence since your old collie died. If a dog is getting more confidence from another dog, as opposed to his owner, then maybe there are aspects of your relationship with him that need more strengthening and improving, in order that his confidence, in future, comes from you.
In this respect, and to further help, I am sending on to you a copy of my special Dogs & People Guidelines , which advise you how to establish the best possible relationship with your dog.

The ‘go-see’ command
The ‘go-see’ command is a vital training exercise for any dog from puppyhood onwards. The purpose of it is to teach your dog that anything he is about to encounter, or anything you ask him to approach, will be either positive or ‘safe’.
Teach it as follows.
• First, every time you put your dog’s meal bowl down, ask him to sit. Then tell him, in an encouraging way, to ‘go see’ his food and eat it.
• Next, start doing the same with treats and his favourite toys. Each time place them a way ahead of him, ask him to sit, then invite him encouragingly to ‘go-see’ them.
• When this is going well, then start asking your puppy or dog to ‘go-see’ other dogs or people he already knows and really likes. And always praise him well for showing confidence.
• Also use the same command with any new visitor to the home
Only once your dog has built up all these positive associations with the ‘go-see’ command, and is responding really well to it, try using it whenever you introduce him to someone or something new, ideally well before he has had a chance to react more negatively. The timing is critical.
It is also critical that anything you introduce your dog to with ‘go see’ is essentially benign. NEVER use this command if you are unsure about the people or dogs you are asking your dog to meet, as one bad experience connected to this command will destroy both the power of the exercise and his faith in you.

Monday, 5 July 2010

At the end of their tether!

Ferris is now 16 weeks old! He is a lovely puppy – really eager to please, easy going and obedient (most of the time!!) apart from when we go out and he is on the lead. He walks beautifully on it (and indeed off it) in the garden – trotting along by my side quite happily. He is even pretty good outside in the lane. BUT, as soon as he sees another person or dog, or in fact anything remotely interesting, he starts to pull towards it and despite my best efforts – treats, changing direction, squeaky toy etc. I cannot seem to overcome the problem. I have recently been advised to continue to train him in the garden and not go out into the real world until he is ‘bomb proof’ however, I don’t see how he can learn to not do something unless he is encountering it. I seem to have experienced a whole raft of different training suggestions in the last few weeks and nothing seems to work. My only other experience of this ‘problem’ was with my last GSD – 14 years ago – and I confess that the favoured training method of checking the dog with a sharp tug did actually work!! Clearly this method is now deemed unreasonable but I am at a loss to know what to do for the best.
Liz Dixon