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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Exploring green and pleasant lands


Recently retired, my husband and I are keen to fill our days exploring the British countryside with our two Labradors.

We know our local tracks across Bucks but we’re keen to find new walks and see some of the stunning views our country has to offer at the same time. Can you advise of the best places to visit?

My eldest dog, Barnaby is 11 and can no longer walk great distances, so it would be great to be told of any routes that are both scenic but not too lengthy – any dog friendly pubs along the way are a bonus too!

Thank you,

Mr and Mrs Davies, by phone

Friday, 24 February 2012

A wee puppy problem


I have a Border Collie who has just turned one, and as we got him from a Welsh hill farm, he was living outside and was not potty trained.

We have had him for nearly three months now and he still has not got the concept of it. We have used a few techniques but have so far they haven't worked.

We thought we would benefit from some advice as they are very clever dogs as well.

Many thanks,

Tamsin Balmer (age 11), by email

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

Hi Tamsin,

It may be that your puppy simply does not recognise the difference between indoors (not toilet) and outside (toilet). Often dogs raised in this way have not learned that they even need to worry about it! Check with your Vet that he is healthy, then go for it!

It can be a drag but go back to the steady, formal method of toilet training. Puppy has to stay confined, either in a crate or under close supervision with you (on a lead if you have to) so that you can keep an eye on him. Every half an hour, take him out to toilet. Reward well when he does go, then allow him freedom for a while – then back to the routine. In the November 2011i ssue, my article on housetraining featured lots of ideas for increasing your chances of success. Nevertheless, spotting early signs such as sniffing and circling, after meals, waking and playtime are key. Keeping a clockwork routine, and rewarding successes are the only sure-fire way to get those toilet manners under control!

Accident waiting to happen


I am after some advice please.

My daughter works in a pub and a seven-month-old American Bulldog-Mastiff cross is regularly brought in by his owner. The dog is not being socialised and does not attend training classes, and is encouraged by his owner to bark at people who walk past. It has snapped and snarled at my daughter several times already and she is worried it will bite someone soon.

My daughter says she has heard the owner refer to it as a 'police buster'.

Please does anyone have any advice for what my daughter can do in this situation?

Anne Lucas, by phone

Fun and games


I bought a couple of ‘dog-proof’ toys for my Staffie, Mac, for Christmas but they haven’t lasted long.

We’ve just booked to go camping during the Easter school holidays and will probably go in the summer, too, and I wonder if anyone knows of any decent, long-lasting toys that can be carried around outside by dogs with strong jaws?!


John Gardner, by email

Spring has sprung

Dear Dogs Today

I saw a bee on our dog walk this morning so spring must be here! I have two very energetic Springers, both of whom are, like me, still hanging on to a little bit of Christmas holiday weight.

Can anyone suggest any fun activities that we can all do together and get some fresh air at the same time? At the moment we go for a couple of two-mile-odd walks a day, usually through woodland and fields.

Gem is six years, and Kyla is almost four. It’d be good to get the kids involved too, who are both boys aged nine and 11.


Claire Christopher, by email

Please help Berkeley to breathe easily

I am hoping to get some help regarding my dog Berkeley’s breathing. Three years ago his in-breaths became noisy and tight and he had to work quite hard to breathe in, when at rest. When he is up and active his breathing is normal.

Over the past three years we have seen five vets who have said that it is different things, from heart failure to lung disease. The latest vet we feel is finally on the right track. He says it is something in Berkeley’s nasal passages like a restriction, inflammation, old scarring, maybe even a polyp. He has been treating him with Rhinocort Aqua (or Beconase) and Cirrus.

To begin with the Cirrus (antihistamine plus decongestant) really helped but unfortunately after 3-4 months it has now stopped working as well as it did. Also the side effects of the decongestant part of the drug are hard to live with. Berkeley gets very anxious and manic on it. So with Cirrus not working very well anymore he is struggling to breathe again and we still have no definite diagnosis and have been given no alternatives things to try.

The vet feels the restriction is likely to be scarring from an old nasal infection and says nothing more can be done. He feels the original infection is probably long gone. I don’t feel comfortable with this theory or with doing nothing. Berkeley’s breathing is often tight and wheezy but can also sometimes sound quite blocked up. I have been trying saline up his nose and on one side it doesn’t seem to go up at all. His eyes have also recently started to water, just a small amount. His lymph nodes have been up in his neck and chest for 4 months now (tested and not lymphoma). I feel this all points to the fact that he is fighting something and surely something can and should be done?

I have tried suggesting an endoscopy so someone can look and maybe take swabs as well but am told that won’t be easy to find a facility to do that (we live in Malta).

So I simply do not know what to do next. I have a feeling his immune system is low so I have started to look at holistic remedies to try to get him back in condition and more able to fight say recurrent infections or improve things if he is having say an inflammatory reaction to something. I have considered buying Thorne Small Animal Antioxidant but I have no idea if it could really help? I don’t want to keep throwing good money after bad or constantly putting Berkeley through ideas and meds that never work, wasting time and energy on blind alleys.

I would really appreciate any help, ideas or thoughts at all about nasal breathing problems in dogs or general immune system support, what we could do next and what might help.

Sorry for the long post.

Thank you for any help at all.

Jenny (and Berkeley)

Richard Allport, alternative vet, advises:

I’m sure you’re correct in thinking Berkeley will benefit from natural supplements to strengthen the immune system. For any dog with these symptoms I’d recommend the following anti oxidants and immune enhancing supplements:

Selenium with Vitamins A, C and E – the best combination of antioxidants, in my view
Royal Jelly – the ideal immune system modulator
Coriolus (a ‘magic’ mushroom) – gives a strong immune boost
DMG (DiMethylGlycine) – an amino acid that helps fight infections

I’d also suggest two homoeopathic medicines – Myristica, which is often known as the homoeopathic disinfectant, and Silicea, a medicine for chronic persistent infections and scarring.

I’d also look at diet, make sure it’s wheat free and give as much fresh food and as little processed food as possible.

There are many other natural medicines and supplements that would be more specific for Berkeley, but more information about precise signs and symptoms would be required, Sadly, I suspect vets with knowledge of holistic medicine are few and far between in Malta

How to avoid a scar?

I was wondering if anyone knew the answer to this... My puppy had a nasty cyst on her head & had it removed yesterday in now I'm worrying that it may scar does anyone know of anything that will prevent this like a doggie equivalent to bio oil??
Kerry Valentine, by email

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Help me overcome the scars of her past

In January, inspired by Dogs Today we proudly rescued a seven year old Miniature Schnauzer who had come from a puppy farm. She was with the rescue for six months before we adopted her and is still very shy. When I stroke her she sometimes licks her feet - is this a sign that she is stressed or that she is enjoying it? She does not run off when we do stroke her so I am hoping it is a soothing action but cannot find any information online to confirm and do not want to do it if she does not like it.

Secondly, we would like to give her some basic training for her safety such as sit, wait and lie down. However using the traditional sit training method standing over the dog holding something in your hand so they look up and automatically sit - as she is frightened of people and has been mistreated in the past she understandably does not like people standing over her - does anyone have other ways in which I can train these basic commands in a non domineering and gentle way?

Zoe Scotton, via email

Karen Wild, behaviourist advises:

Often a dog that is mildly uncertain will engage in a displacement activity such as licking themselves. It is not necessarily a sign of great stress but I think you have a good rapport with her and can see that it is a coping mechanism for her. She is probably not used to being handled but often, touch can calm both us and a dog. Why not consult with a T Touch practitioner who can help you with calming touches for her? In this way you both benefit.

It might be that she needs to learn that hands are always kind – that they always have something tasty in them no matter how they move or where they go. I would spend a few days or longer just holding smelly food she loves in your hand. Get her to follow your hand as she sniffs. If you can get her to move her head, progress to luring her round in a circle. This may help. Alternatively, get a very quiet, gentle clicker (or muffle one in your pocket) and as she sits naturally, click, then treat her. Keep doing this every time she sits without you trying to prompt her (known as free-shaping). She will learn that by placing her bottom on the floor, something good follows from you (after the click has alerted her to this!). Eventually, add a ‘Sit’ vocal instruction to pair the movement with your cue. This is a very rewarding process and will give her the confidence to try things out for herself.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Why does he keep running off

I have an 18 month Staff cross who keeps running off into the same places. It's a new thing that he does but why? Can someone help me? Why does he do it and how can I stop him?
Emma Pickersgill, via facebook

Sounds to me that Emma has to become the most interesting thing in the park and really work on her recall. Anyone any tips?
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Karen Wild, behaviourist advises:

Hi Emma! If it’s a new thing it may be that he has had one or two extremely enjoyable experiences after running away and then realised that he can continue his fun no matter what you do! There are a few things I would use to help. Firstly I would get a long line (30ft training line, or washing line if you like) and attach this to his collar so that he trails it along. Never let the line get more than halfway along its length away from you as you walk. Secondly, arm yourself with the tastiest treats you can find, plus a toy he loves – squeaky ones can be good. Finally, as you go for your walk practice calling him back after only a few feet, and keep it up into a great game. Get him to chase you by running away (as long as he does not grab or snatch). Build this up into such a game that the second you see him alert to something in the distance, you can grab the line, call him, run away and offer him a treat too. What dog wouldn’t want to be with such a fun owner?!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

I wish they'd play nicely!


I have three dogs, an 11 year old male Greyhound, a two year old Greyhound bitch, and a 6 month old Lurcher bitch puppy. All get on well, and have never been aggressive to people or dogs. The older two are neutered/spayed and the pup will be once she is older.

The older boy is an angel, it's the two young girls that I am having a problem with. They constantly play fight! I know they are only playing, it looks and sounds like world war three has broken out sometimes, but they are definitely playing, and they have never hurt each other. They just can't seem to play in other ways, they only way they will play is by biting and pulling at each other, growling, chasing, jumping up/on each other, with the odd bark thrown in too. I don't mind it too much, but it would be nice if they could learn to play with toys instead. Separately, they play fine, will fetch toys, chase toys etc.

The problem is, the believe other dogs want to play this way too. Most of the dogs we are connected to are larger dogs, and they also quite like a rough game, so when we meet a smaller dog, it usually ends up with a disgusted look from the owner, as the girls try to play as they do with each other, which most dogs, and small dogs, don't appreciate. It means they have to stay on lead because I don't want to upset other dogs and their owners. I know they are not going to cause any harm (certainly not on purpose) but some people don't realise that.

Do you have any tips on getting them to play nicely? They don't behave like this while on the lead, only off lead.

Thanks in advance for any help!
Sarah Bell, by email

Friday, 3 February 2012

Car sick as a dog

I have a nine-month-old OES bitch puppy who cannot travel more than 10 miles without being sick. On advice of a breeder I gave her a half of a Quell tablet when she was six months old and this worked. Now she is older and weighs 30kg it does not.

Obviously I am not feeding before a long journey. She is a confident dog and copes with new situations well, so could it be stress related? Should I increase the dosage to a whole tablet of Quells? Will she improve after her first season?

I have had dogs for nearly 40 years but she is the first bitch. Does this make a difference?

Any comments much appreciated.

Margaret, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises…

To start at the end, I really think the sex makes no difference. We had prided ourselves on never having a car sick dog until we travelled a puppy back from Wales who had been fed just beforehand, threw up after an hour and then was sick whenever she – yes, she was female – travelled in the car until she was about a year old.

That was many years ago. Our twelve year old Labrador bitch (female again!) was also sick if she had been fed within two hours of travelling, and her first journey in a car was just five minutes to our home. Again, she did grow out of it by the time she was a year old.

The fact that your dog can travel up to ten miles is a very positive sign and one that I would use to your advantage. Try to keep all your journeys below that magic distance, with a pleasant experience at the end. The more times she can travel without being sick, the more she will become confident in the car. Then, after about two to four weeks, venture a little further afield, but not by much and, again, with a walk or other positive experience at the destination. Gradually build up the distance, always going back one step if she shows signs of queasiness. The key is to avoid her actually starting to feel ill. She needs to travel and enjoy the journey to a treat as many times as possible.

Think also about where she travels in the car. Is she always sick when she travels or only in a particular car, or with a particular driver? Being able to see out often helps, so that the eyes can feed back information to the brain to correlate with motion information. This is why reading in a car can make people nauseous – the eyes are saying that the world is static because the words are not moving, whilst the middle ear and motion centres are detecting the movement of the car: conflict results in travel sickness.

Kwells contain hyoscine hydrobromide and are, as you rightly say, for travel sickness in humans. They are not licensed for dogs. There is a veterinary licensed drug for canine travel sickness which would be worth considering if you had to make a long journey before you were able to build up to that distance. There are also herbal remedies, and Dog Appeasing Pheromone spray or collar.

Do try to keep positive about this – avoid building it up in your mind because your dog will pick up on your anxiety which may then reinforce the problem.

Muddy paws


Can anyone tell me how much I can wash a dog's feet? Is there such a thing as too much? Can too much washing and drying make them sore?

I have five large white furry dogs (Samoyeds) and live in an area of heavy clay. Since November our garden and most of the neighbourhood has turned to mud, so for several months now I've been having to wash the dogs' feet every time they come. Can this damage their feet? They have certainly come to hate the bucket!

When I wash I try not to make them too wet and to dry them off as much as possible afterwards. I've also trimmed the fur so there's less to get muddy - will this leave their pads too exposed and so more vulnerable? Not washing them is not an option - not only because of the mud in the house but also it forms hard gritty balls between their pads so they can't walk properly.

So am I washing them too much and if so, what can I do? Moisturising their feet would only give them something to lick off and enough doggy wellies for so many would cost a fortune. Any suggestions?

Steve Bass, by email

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Are you a complete fan?

Do you feed a complete dry food?
Can you tell us (remaining anonymous if you are afraid you'll be embroiled in lengthy debate by the raw feeding conversion ambassadors!) what is your favourite dry food and why?
We know more and more people feed this method over wet, so why do you do this? What are the benefits?
Beverley Cuddy, Editor Dogs Today

Making complete more complete

I’ve recently gone from a raw diet back to a dry complete because I'm in rented accommodation and only have a small fridge and no freezer. A friend has recommended I add supplements to their diet make sure he (dog, not friend) still gets all the right nutrients in his diet. I’ve had a look around and there’s quite a few on sale and I was wondering if anyone is currently supplementing a complete diet and if they can recommend a supplement that has worked well for them?
Kate Thomas, Carlise

If a dried food is complete then it is just that – complete, formulated to be fed exactly as it is. There are, however, different types of food supplemement. Whether you should be adding a supplement will depend on what is in the supplement and for what purpose you would be adding it.
Feeding a vitamin/mineral supplement with a complete food will, inevitably, unbalance the food. You could even, theoretically, do more harm than good because a complete food has been formulated to meet the nutritional needs of a dog at a particular stage in its life. There are levels of sophistication when it comes to the formulation of a food, so that you may have the choice of just puppy or adult at one extreme, or puppy, junior, adult, adult neutered, senior and even a selection of breed type or actual breed at the other end of the spectrum. The quality of the formulation is what you are purchasing – you pay for what you get.
If, however, you are looking for more particular attributes such as joint care, skin and coat condition, for example, then a specialised food supplement from a company like Lintbells is certainly worth considering if your requirements are not met by the dried food you have chosen.
Alison Logan, vet