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Monday, 25 February 2013

Walking on eggshells

Hello Dogs Today,

I read your magazine regularly and would like some help with my Border Terrier, please. She is two
 years old and is a lovely companion.

The problem is when she is out on the lead for walks. She barks furiously at every dog she sees. Off lead on local pasture land she plays happily with other dogs and has good recall although, just recently she was playing with another cross-breed terrier and it developed into a fight and I don’t know which dog started it. Also, my dog started humping the other dog and I have never seen her do this before. 

When walking her on lead I try to distract her when I see another dog approaching. I ask her to look at me and offer her a treat and keep doing this until the other dog has got a good way past us. This is working if I see the other dog before mine spots it and also if the other dog does not pass too close to us, otherwise I have no chance of distracting mine and thus we have the furious barking and black looks from everyone around us including the other dog’s owner. Sometimes the other dog’s owner will laugh and say they understand. 

It is really hard work walking her out now. I have had Border Terriers before but not had this kind of behaviour to contend with. My husband often used to walk our dogs, too, but he passed away. I have got this Border after he passed and so I have brought her up on my own. I have been told by other dog owners and a vet that she is protecting me.

Please can you advise me because she is wearing me out and I am not as young as I was? If I had known what I know now I would maybe have got an older rescue dog but I thought, having had Borders before, I knew what I was getting and with rescues I maybe wouldn’t be too sure of their temperament and adaptability. I like that all my Borders have been bomb-proof and fearless but this one has gone a step too far for me.

Kind regards,

Libby Coles, by email

Friday, 22 February 2013

A breath of fresh air?

Dear Dogs Today
I have tried almost everything.
For some reason his breath literally takes my breath away!
I have changed my dog's diet to something that actually smells good enough for me to eat, but no change. I clean my dog's teeth regularly and I've had the vet check and there's definitely no decay or underlying health issues.
My dog is otherwise a happy, healthy, well exercised dog.
Are there some dogs who just stink?
To other dogs this might be the most appealing smell ever, but to the human nose it's rank.
I can't even begin to describe the smell, it's not quite rotten fish but it's a close relative - and he doesn't ever eat fish.
I love him enough to breath lightly while giving him a cuddle, but it does put others off. I worry he may end up with a complex as people do pull away when he pants in their direction.
Is there anything I can try to improve his halitosis?
Max Jackson, Weybridge, Surrey

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Thank you!

Nearly three years have flown since I e-mailed [deaf dogs long Flexi hearing aid] with my desperate plea for ideas to prevent our vivacious, bright, brisk and busy Brittany, Annie, having an impossible future of on-lead walking because of age-related deafness. The e-mail was also published in the May 2010 magazine. Annie was then 11.1/2 years old, could hear neither my voice nor the whistle I used, even if she was close to me, and thus became virtually out of control. To be permanently on-lead would have been cruel.

I thought it might be of interest if I followed up with the experiences with Annie who, with a little extra care, very happily continued to be allowed to “free-range” without harm to herself or anything else and most thoroughly enjoyed life.

Before that I want to thank Dogs Today and those who responded to my query.

With my query was one from another person about dog whistles. As a result of that, the first thing I did was to telephone Acme Whistles (0121 5542124, who, without guarantee, suggested I try their Acme 212. It arrived next day. Contrary to efforts when she first came to live with us at 18 months’ old, Annie was a joy to retrain, it taking only two days’ retraining “recall”, “this way”, “stop” in the house, then garden, before I was using the whistle successfully in the fields and woodland. Her whistle-hearing range was up to about 60 feet, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the conditions. It was brilliant.

Secondly, I bought the wonderful booklet “Hear Hear” by Barry Eaton (01264 860108, which contains so much sensible and practical advice suitable for training any dog, deaf or not, and which I wish we’d had years earlier. We had already learned from Annie that she responded well to signals and we had to be careful that the use of our hands did not confuse her. Barry Eaton’s booklet helped to refine this means of communication, again “recall”, “this way”, “stop” and many others. Her response to the whistle and signals was spectacular, enthusiastic and joyous and I wondered if her hearing had not been right for some time (she came to us with a severe infection of ear mites, amongst other things).

We chose not to try a vibrating collar; as well as being willful and bossy, Annie was very sensitive and could become “spooked”. She was also selectively deaf so we would not have known if it was successful or not.

We also chose not to use a long line, having tried one for nine months in unsuccessfully training her when we bought her at 18 months old. Although this was for a different purpose, many difficulties encountered then would be the same.

Where necessary the 28-foot extending lead was more than adequate. When we walked in populated areas, an 8-foot extending lead was easier for control. These were possible because years earlier we had devised a leg harness to attach to a commercial chest harness. Although the chest harness on its own was an instrument of torture for Annie, she accepted the linked harnesses very happily, causing her no problems and enabling us to take her on otherwise out-of-bounds exciting excursions. Without these combined harnesses her impetuosity and obsessiveness would have made such excursions impossible. In addition we always ensured she had plenty of “free-range” exercise.

For in-house, and for when she wasn’t too far away in the garden, when the whistle was rather too intrusive, I successfully trained her to come to the ringing of a bell which I think is used for caged parrots to play with. She could hear this for up to about 15 feet away.

More recently Annie confused the long loud whistle of “recall” and the two short sharp of “this way” as both meaning recall. I don’t know whether this was because of her hearing but I suspect I became sloppy in my rewarding. Either way it didn’t matter as the two short were much easier for me for when she was not too far away. As she aged she became more attentive and didn’t run as fast, far or wide.

I am surprised that many people fail to understand that a deaf dog cannot hear and that signals and/or whistles have to be taught.

For those, who are concerned that their dog’s failing hearing is causing it a less fulfilled life, I would recommend making the effort to try retraining. If it works it is wonderful and rewarding; it enhances the lives of dog and owner. It strengthens that very special bond which we are so privileged to experience with our dogs for far too short a time.

Audrey, Worcester


In April we are travelling by train from London to Edinburgh.

Can your readers say if they have encountered problems making such a journey and do they have any information on travelling by taxis in London?


Charlie Steven, by email

Gentle help for vestibular syndrome

Hi Dogs Today,

My lovely Border Collie bitch, Cara, suffers from vestibular syndrome. She had her first attack a year ago, followed by two in quick succession. She was put on vivitonin, which, has kept her symptom free until a couple of weeks ago when she had another attack. She has recovered, but it has left her with even more of a head tilt and is wobbly on anything less than level ground.

The vet says there is nothing more they can do. My question is really to Richard Allport. Is there a natural or homeopathic remedy I could try?

By the way, she will be 15 at the end of May.

Yours faithfully,

Phyllis Nottingham, by email

NB: please note only a qualified vet can give veterinary advice, but the sharing of experience by owners who have been in the same situation with their own dogs can really help

Richard Allport, vet,  says...

Well now, the question is, is Cara suffering from VS (vestibular syndrome), or TIA (transient ischaemic attack) or CVA (cardio vascular accident)?

The symptoms of all these are so similar as to make a diagnosis difficult. In essence VS is a disturbance of balance - leading to such symptoms as a head tilt, nystagmus (eyes flickering to and fro), nausea, and falling to one side. Usually the cause is unknown, but it can be triggered by infection, or by an underactive thyroid.

CVA is a bleed inside the brain (essentially a stroke) and TIA (often called a mini stroke) is a sudden reduction in blood supply to one or more blood vessels in the brain .. and both give rise to the same symptoms as are seen in VS.

Interestingly when I was a young vet, we would tell clients that the problem was a mini stroke. Then the ‘experts’ said that no, dogs don’t get strokes, it’s always vestibular disease. Then, with the advent of MRI and CT scans, it was conclusively shown that dogs DO get strokes.

Whichever is the cause, most dogs recover spontaneously from the stroke/VS within a few hours or days, but the episodes tend to recur and can become more frequent and last much longer with time.

There is very little in the way of specific pharmaceutical treatment. Vivitonin works by increasing the blood supply to the brain, but there is little evidence it is of great benefit for dogs affected by TIA, CVA or VS.

So what would I suggest for Cara? First, ask your vet to consider testing for hypothyroidism, and possibly for high blood pressure, as either condition could contribute to the symptoms.

Secondly, for any patients that I treat with this condition I normally advise the following supplements and natural medicines:

Gingko – a herb that increases blood supply to the brain , as Vivitonin, but has other beneficial effects on brain circulation and function too.

Aktivait – a supplement containing various minerals, vitamins and amino acids that improves brain function in general in the older dog.

Homoeopathy – there are many homoeopathic medicines that can help, but which are most beneficial depend on the individual circumstances, and a consultation with a qualified homoeopathic vet would be necessary.

Acupuncture – sessions of acupuncture often help to minimize symptoms and speed recovery.

I do wish Cara well, do let me know how she progresses.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Wrap up warm

What's the best warm dog walking coat/jacket for women please?

Max Mcmicking, via Facebook

Torque of the town

Can any of your readers share how they make sure their dogs travel safely in the car? I’ve been using a dog guard between the boot where my dog travels and the passenger seat in the back, but have recently realised this is the crumple zone, and obviously cars have this for a reason.

Are purpose-built crates for the boot better, or should I try some sort of seatbelt? Would this allow my dog to move around a bit and remain comfortable? I drive a Ford Fiesta.

Any advice would be gratefully received.

Thank you,

Danielle, by email

Monday, 11 February 2013

Three dogs and a baby


Can you help me?

As an owner of three gorgeous dogs, two spaniels and one Shih Tzu, I love going on long off-lead walks. My only problem is now I have a baby (not really a problem, but as any mum would tell you.. juggling a buggy and three leads is tough!).

I wondered if you could suggest the best off-road buggies for me and my dogs, of a reasonable price.

I’ve looked online for advice, but most buggies have small wheels, or are really big and bulky. I am absolutely desperate for advice as I can’t get out and about with the dogs so much now.. and I miss it. I feel so sorry for my doggies!

Oh, and yes I do have a carrier, but I am only a small build and already my three-month-old is heavy for me to carry.

Your advice would be really appreciated.

Many thanks,

Lottie, by email

Gifts from the heart

My mother is brilliant at knitting and sewing, and as she has now got her first ever dog - a gorgeous little rescue terrier cross - I wondered if there were any books I could get her with patterns for doggie accessories? I've found patterns for dog jumpers, but that's about all - there must be some more exciting dog-related projects out there?

Mary Elliott, Crawley, West Sussex

Dogs Today says...

How about this gorgeous bed and bandanna? These designs are by Mandy Shaw, from her book Stitch at Home - but you can download these patterns and others free of charge at If you'd like to buy her the book, it's available direct from or at all good booksellers, priced £14.99.

Lead the way forward

Hi, can any of your readers offer me any advice please.

This is Missie, she's 17 weeks today. I had her 5 weeks ago from a lady who had bought her and her brother but couldn't keep them both as they kept fighting. I have 4 other dogs and she has settled in very well with them.

She had her 2nd vaccination 3 weeks ago and as yet I've been unable to walk her as she's terrified of the lead. She's fine in just a collar or just the harness but as soon as she sees the lead she starts to shake. A friend suggested attaching the lead for short intervals while she's playing in the house, but this is still her reaction as soon as it goes on. I really don't want to frighten her anymore than she already is but I would love to be able to get her to walk with the other dogs.

Janette Murphy, via Facebook

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises…

Hi Janette,

Poor thing! Try first of all to work out if it is the lead being attached that she fears (and has learned to hide as a result of it), or perhaps she is completely unfamiliar with any lead, or is avoiding someone coming towards her. It might even be the sound of the clip that sometimes affects dogs.

First of all, forget about leads being attached altogether. Sit down with some really nice, smelly treats and just practice offering her a treat with one hand and letting her take it. Then have any long piece of webbing, even twine or string, with no clip and hold that in the other hand close to your body and still allow her to come forward and eat a treat. Next, assess if it is your hand movement towards her with that webbing that sends her into a stress reaction (licking, turning away, shivering). If so, we know that she needs to learn that hands approaching are not a threat, so pair this with tasty treats until she learns to stay calm. If she does not react to either of these it may be the lead clip or even if the lead you are using is just too wide when it is attached. Again, go to an easy stage by just holding treats in one hand and having a much thinner lead in your lap, or even the actual lead but do not try to reach her with it. Decide if it is the clip, the lead, the noise, and pair each element with enjoyment; if she loves a toy, pair it with playtime! Take your time and if possible, leave the lead lying around so she can just see it and get used to it when you are not there.

Never progress the training if she starts to shake or look worried. Stop immediately and re-think what you are doing. We need to change her emotional response to the lead and as you sound like a patient and caring person, it will not be long before she learns not to just accept this but actively enjoys it too.

A wee problem

Benji is what I believe to be a Sheltie terrier mix whom we rescued in 2008. He was found as a stray on the streets of a smaller city in New Jersey, USA. We adopted him from the rescue that released him from the shelter after they'd cared for him only a few days.

Benji is a sweet submissive dog but his bladder is his to use whenever and however he sees fit. He is such a good dog that we like to believe he only pees on the tile in the bathroom. But stains on my speaker cloth say otherwise.

We have a dozen colorful belly bands to which we affix super absorbent napkins. He wets them and only lets us know he needs to pee when they're wet. :(

No amount of diligence seems to make him any more or less reliable. If we could withhold water without ill effect I might but no one recommends that.

I can fantasize that he was kept outside and wasn't ever house trained until we got him (we failed). True enough he was not neutered until rescued at the age my vet thinks was about 5yo.

We love him and aren't houseproud thank goodness (he wouldn't fit in) but I wish he would pee outside.

Suggestions welcome.

Ron and Benji, New York City

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises…

Hi Ron and Benji,

If your vet is confident that Benji does not have any physical issues it may just be that he never learned to toilet outside. If he had originally lived outdoors he may have just peed wherever he felt and it is unlikely that he went in his own little ‘den’ (if he had one) but everywhere else was fair game. You have a lot of options and I do think that belly bands are a good way of staying sane for as long as possible. I completely sympathise having had an incontinent older dog and a tiny female dog that was also never housetrained. Needless to say we abandoned our carpets long ago, so sometimes management keeps things on a bearable level.

Do check that he is not scent marking rather than just urinating to empty his bladder. There is a significant difference as one is typically a marking behaviour against vertical surfaces and small amounts of urine. Actually toileting is larger amounts of urine and is solely for relief. Scent marking is territorial and sometimes through stress, and is an instinctive behaviour that can be hard to stop.

The absolute way to tell if he is even prepared to learn to hold urine until he goes outside is to go right back to good old puppy housetraining. Confinement, supervision, and letting him out at short but regular intervals, making a big fuss of him when he does urinate in the right place. If you can consistently do this (or already have) and he is still not catching on, check that he is not afraid to urinate outdoors. If you decide to use a puppy pad to attract him to at least choose a single, easy to keep clean place indoors this can also help. You can build up time targeting the puppy pad, then move it nearer the door and finally outside.

So, it can be hard to help without details and my advice is keep a diary of places, times, amount (indelicate but necessary) so that you can at least begin to establish a pattern. Once you know exactly what his habit is trying to achieve, you can really get to tackling the issue with some certainty.

Best wishes,


Friday, 8 February 2013

Spinning around

Nine months ago I rescued a five-year-old Labrador bitch who had spent her life in a cage, in a barn, being used for breeding.

After quite a few problems and being spayed, she is now a friendly, happy bitch.

Sometimes in my house, in my garden, or in the local park she is suddenly like a “whirling dervish”, makes about four to six circles, and is then exhausted.

My vet has checked that there is no medical problem but as my bitch has the beginnings of arthritis in her hind legs, I worry that this excessive moving in circles will affect her legs.

Have any of your readers ever experienced this problem with rescued dogs who have spent their time in cages?

Yours sincerely,

Mrs M. J. Lucas, Deal, Kent

Friday, 1 February 2013

Lost and found

While enjoying a run in the snow a couple of weeks ago, my dog, Sally, found a small terrier type shivering in a bush by the path. She was clearly lost and was wearing a collar and tag, but the tag was blank. I was with my dad and we shouted and wandered around close to where we were standing for a bit but couldn’t hear any signs of an owner. We were only half a mile from our house and the roads were deserted due to the snow, and I have invested time in training Sal to stay close, so I clipped Sal’s lead on the dog’s collar and my dad took Sally home while I wandered the woods with the lost dog in search of her owner. Thankfully, after about half an hour I found him, he was on the phone – I assume to his wife/girlfriend – apologising a lot and was a bit stressed. He didn’t have a lead for her, picked her up and carried her off (still on the phone telling whoever it was he’d found her, and didn’t even say thank you).

This got me thinking though, what would I have done if I hadn’t found the terrier’s owner? Obviously I’d have taken her home to warm her up out of the snow and probably have phoned my vet to check she was ok as I’m not sure how long she’d been in the bush in the cold. Legally though, what should I do if this happens again? I had no way of contacting the owner as her tag had no contact details. Is it the dog warden I phone or the police?

If you could tell me I’d be grateful as I’d feel much better prepared if this happens again.

Thank you.

Suzi Miller, by email