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Mr J

We have just arrived from our beautiful holiday in Carmathenshire, South Wales.

I googled “the longest beach in the UK” and Cefn Sidan sands was one of them. 8 miles of beautiful, quiet sandy beach. The dogs enjoyed a good run and both J and I got a change to blow all the cobwebs away that the day to day life seems to build up.

Most of all I was very impressed how far the dogs have come. About a year and a half ago we had a very similar holiday, also in Wales, and the dogs were very stressed about all the change and hence were not particularly well behaved. This time they were exceptionally good, both inside the cottage and on our walks. It seems to me that pushing them to the edge (and often beyond) of their comfort zone and then returning back to normal routine has done them good. Since our last holiday we have had nine foster dogs and they have been left with the dogwalker several times which has meant that Benji is now called EX dog aggressive dog. I trust him 99% now, he is such a good boy when he is off lead. That said there has also been a big change in me too. I feel exceptionally content at the moment within myself and particularly Benji picks up on my moods very easily. I dont think we should ever underestimate how our own moods affect our animals.

First night at Cefn Sidan sands

Its a very interesting thing this comfort zone thing… It seems that the less we push ourselves (or our animals) to the edges of the zone, the smaller it becomes. The reason Benji was such a difficult dog was because he was not pushed to learn from new experiences by the previous owner(s). Hence he learned only one way to solve “problems” – launch, growl and bark (and bite…). Its been a long road of trial and error – for both of us – and I would do many, many things differently if I could to do it all again. I would stay much calmer throughout the whole process. I would know things will get better. I would know how, when and how much to expose him to new situations. I would just smile a big smile when I hear people making comments behind my back (instead of a sobbing attack…!).

We have both been pushed out of our comfort zone a lot and we are both stronger, calmer and happier indivuduals beacuse of it. I owe this dog so much. I really do.

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On a very rainy day, I had a lot of time in my hands and I tried my “paw” at video editing. I used still pictures from the last two years of our time together with the beautiful boy.

Im working on an idea of putting together another video for people who are considering a BC as a pet. It is still only an idea and I have only one or two suitable videos for the clips, but it is coming together slowly. In the meantime, I hope you like this 🙂

I have also added a facebook “like” page on the right hand side, hope to see you all there.

 

Pretty photos

Arty photo of Scooby our current foster dog

 

Lucy hunting

My most beautiful Benji

Benji, Finn our first ever foster dog and Lucy having a snooze

Morning yawn

Can I sit on your lap, please!!

 

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We have a new arrival. Well he has been here for about 48 hours, but Iike to reserve judgement and let them come out of their shell before I get a good feel of who they are. Now after 10 rescue dogs (two of them mine), I have a very good feel of the character right from the start, but sometimes they like to prove me wrong.

This was not the case with Scooby, since he has been a great representative of his breed. Mellow, cuddly, bit clumsy and all in all a perfect pet dog. Just as I expected him to be. He, as many many staffies in the UK came from a family who had let him out to wander on his own and then did not want to pay the £100 or so to the dog warden/council and decided to just leave him in the dog pound. Oh so typical story, but I still find it very unbelievable how people can just abandon a dog after they have had him for 7 years…

The staffi problem has become a massive issue in the UK. People breed them just purely for money, don’t care who takes them and recently we have seen quite a few puppies dumped just because they didnt sell. I don’t have an answer… I wish I did. A lot of charities advocate neutering and try to educate people that way, but Im not sure if that is reaching those people who breed them. Or if they really even care. I am not judging and I am making an generalisation here, but it tends to be the representatives of a certain class of people who do this anyway, and these are often people from families who have not even worked for generations. Do they really care if someone tells you that your should get your dog neutered so you can’t use it as a tax free money machine?

Here is a little video of Scooby making “crop circles”. By this time he had been in a kennel for nearly 3 months with hardly any access to the outside world. He found a pile of poo (well, Lucy my terrier found it…) and I did not have heart to tell him to stop 😀

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwtmjHIYJko&feature=channel_video_title

Better pictures coming soon – these were just the first few I have taken over the last two days and are not to my usual (personal!!) standard!!

 

 

 

 

Importance of trust

I  think trust between yourself and your dog plays a much more important role than most dog professional’s advocate and it is something that has not given much attention in recent books, tv program’s etc. Maybe this is due to the current public obsession with dominance theories. Theories that have a LONG time ago proven to be totally wrong, but are oh so handy explanation to everything and places the blame on the dog, not on yourself. (Even the academic who wrote the original paper has admitted being wrong. They studied unrelated wolves in captivity where they competed for scarce resources. You can imagine what happened if you were to put a group of unrelated young men in a cage and only fed them occasionally…!)

Benji went to an obedience class

How does one go about achieving trust?

The short answer? Time, patience and love

As with any other being, human or animal, there is only one way to achieve trust. It takes a long time, but is fragile and can be lost in an instant. It takes a lot of consistency and patience from your part, particularly if your dog has been let down and hurt in the past. You need to have true love and good intentions behind it all, since insincerity is an easy ploy to detect. Dogs are not really that different to us. Their emotions are as complex as ours, it is only in the perception of the world they differ from us human’s. And just to make this clear, I am not advocating anthropomorphism here! They have very different physical needs, but inside we are very similar. This creates a very fine line and as I have said before, it is the responsibility of us human’s to know where this line lies.

As always I do draw from my own experiences, mainly with Benji but also with Lucy. Everyone said to me that it takes around 6-9 months for the dog to settle and I would say it did really take about a year for them to truly trust me and me to know their character well enough to trust them. (well.. in most situations anyway..!) This bond has only deepened over the last 2.5 years they have lived here and I have recently seen a big difference in Lucy in particular. She used to be very quick to disappear if let off lead and given the chance to run free, but this has diminished to almost zero over the recent 6 months. I have used a lot of positive reinforcement whenever she comes close to me in the form of treats, ball (her favourite) and most recently also cuddles. She get a variable schedule of these rewards and sometimes she gets nothing, just to reinforce the randomness. Occasionally I might also put her on lead and let her off almost immediately. She still likes to hunt, but I have seen her self-regulating this behaviour recently by doing a tiny charge towards a bird, but immediately looking back at me for a reward. she ge s a very special bonus amount of rewards every time I catch her doing that!! Special girl!!

Benji has been his usual good self, apart from having a slight issue in the obedience with so many new dogs in last week’s class. Him being a typical BC, he has almost got a fixed bullet point style response to this event. (Amongst many others…!!) When we started the obedience classes he was still very aggressive with other dogs and this has now stuck in his behaviour repertoire at this location and setting. It is now narrowed to new dogs and the dogs he has only seen less than approximately 5 times, but once he sees them enough times he is fine with them. I assume this is typical to badly socialized rescue dogs – things just take their own sweet time.

Lots of time, patience and love needed.

Have a good week everyone and visit again soon! Dont forget to subscribe on the left – you can leave anytime! And feel free to leave any comments below.

I leave you with a lovely photo of Benji looking over the horizon! I wonder what he is thinking 🙂

I have just returned back home from three days in Andalucia. Since Mr J works for very long hours, dogs went to their usual “carehome” at Wokingham Dog Walkers . Dawn takes great care of them, but there is no place like home for my babies.

So it got me thinking of how much having a consistent routine really helped the dogs to settle. It is obviously only one component of the whole bigger picture, but I’m a great believer it was one of the most important pieces in the puzzle to get them to feel at home. Routine is also something that I put in place when the foster dogs move in and it seems to make a difference. Oftentimes this is one of the components that was missing in their previous life.

When our dogs moved here two years ago, we obviously did not have a set routine in place initially. It took months, probably about six months, of adjusting and fine tuning (and sometimes major tuning!!) to get to the point whereby both the dogs and our needs were being met. To me their needs always came first, after all they didn’t choose to live with us, we chose them. This was important in particular in our case, since I CHOSE to bring two dogs originally bred for working – a herding dog and a “rat killer” – to my life. These guys were no couch potatoes and would be unhappy and destructive if their needs were not being met. (which is very likely why they ended up in rescue in a first place!!)

I kept changing things around until I felt they started to settle. I stopped walking them on the streets since the passing cars and meeting other dogs on a lead were just too much for a highly tuned border collie. I bought an estate car so I could get a covered crate for them to prevent him from seeing the passing traffic (yes, again all the fast movement really got to him – all those metal sheep to herd and being stuck inside one was his idea of stress hell). I also drove them to a quiet field everyday, and still do, to give them a chance to run as much as they wanted.

I’ve had a few comments in my time from well meaning people that all of this sounds like a bit too much of a hassle. To me the word hassle didn’t even enter my mind. I think a lot of people take dogs to fullfill their OWN needs. The dog should be cuddly, calm and give THEM constant unconditional love. The dog needs to be well behaved at all times, even they never bothered to take them to training classes. The dog should never question their authority even they never bothered to build a serious working relationship and mutual respect with their animal. And my favourite – immediately label them as “dominant” and stupid when they are just unsure and afraid, since they never bothered to read a single book about dog behaviour written by a respected authority.

Have you ever considered why your dog (or any other animal to that matter) behaves the way he does? If he is happy, or more importantly if he is unhappy, do you spend time thinking why he is that way? Do you expect your dog to fulfil your needs before you’ve fulfilled his? Maybe you could take a few minutes to think about that now.

Below are a few pictures from our walk today at Sulham Woods and a lovely shot courtesy of my friend Annette of me riding a lovely Andalucian stallion.

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Yes, I have cut my left hind paw. So?

Benji has cut his paw. This is nothing new and is as much of a routine to me as walking the dogs everyday. Yes it doesn’t happen quite everyday, but this is probably the 6th time over the last two years. It tends to happen during one of his numerous herding patterns. One specific move was named by daddy “a handbrake turn”.
For anyone who already has got some experience of BC’s will know exactly what I mean, but for the rest of you it goes something like this. Run at full speed for approximately 10-20m, continuously looking backwards towards the object of herding desire. Make a millisecond decision to simultanously turn towards the object of herding desire and adopt a herding stance. Never mind if the back legs are still pushing at full speed – they fly 180 degrees through the air to complete the handbrake turn. For full effect, simulate a herding nip by grabbing a mouthful of grass with front teeth while intensely staring at object of herding desire.
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I am very lucky that he is such a hardened farmers dog that he leaves all his cuts and grazes alone. Never licks them or feels sorry for himself. Last winter he partly went trough a barbed wire and slashed a big piece of skin off his front leg. All I could see was a trail of blood on the snow while he was on full herding mode trying to stop Lucy from doing something (probably chasing a squirrel). Even that big cut he left alone and hated me cleaning it with antiseptic spray. Mind you a BC would not be much use to a farmer if he said “Cant you see I’m injured – sick pay is part of my statutory rights. You go and catch those sheep by yourself”.
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Meanwhile it is indeed Lucy normally who is the object of his intense herding desire.

Loopy Lou having a rest nd looking super cute

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I worked incredibly hard to get some control over his intense herding habits when he first arrived to us, mainly since he used to actually nip Lucy (and us) quite a lot. This is really a full post in itself – yes, I made ALL the mistakes until I had to sit myself down, probably crying since I did a lot of that over the first few months, and really look into the reasons why he does it and how to work with the underlying reasons. It all came back to staying calm and keeping his intense emotions under wraps too. But more about that some other time.
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Here is a picture that I think really captures my pretty girl. Here she is sleeping on the floor, but this is usually the face I wake up to in the mornings. She sleeps in bed between us (good contraception I must say…!) and snuggles very, very close to you under the duvet. When she stretches her legs, she needles you with her claws. But I don’t think there has ever been a little girl (or boy) who didn’t want their teddybear to be a real little cosy bear they could share the bed with. I have just brought that childhood fantasy to reality!