All posts by groovyal24

About groovyal24

I have a National Diploma in Animal Management, and a BSc (Hons) Degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare. I love animals and have had a few pets of my own, and experience with many different animal species through various jobs and my studies.

Dog Training: Basic Tips


I am hoping, in some future posts, to go into each point in more detail. For now, I just wanted to share some basic tips to think about, when training your dog/ puppy. As always, any questions or comments can be left on the website, or via Facebook or Twitter (as below).

1. Relationship and Behaviour

Building a trusting relationship with the dog is key. Nothing builds trust better than time – spend time with the dog, let them take all the time they need to come to you and to trust you. Physical contact helps to reinforce the relationship, the way in which you approach physical contact will also impact the way the animal interacts with you.

Me & my Barney

2. Control the Session

Remaining calm is a key component to remaining in control of the situation. Dogs are great at picking up on your energy and your mood; if you are stressed or anxious, they will pick up on this and be more likely to react to this; if you are calm and in control, they will feel relaxed and more likely to feel they can trust you.

If you feel like things are starting to get out of control, take a breath and step back – end the session if you have to, but keeping yourself and the animal safe, and as least stressed as possible, will benefit you both more than trying to push through. Knowing when to stop, and when to push through a barrier, is sometimes tricky.

3. Patience and Persistence

Just like people, dogs learn at different rates; they’re all individuals, with their own learning speed and strengths. If the dog isn’t getting something as quick as you would like, just be patient, and encourage any little successes – for example; if you are teaching a dog to give paw and they lift their foot but don’t give it, reward this and encourage this to help them.

Barney “giving paw”

Pictured below is Maggie, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who I worked with and trained. She was in a rescue kennels where I worked, and was very toy-aggressive; she would try to take your hand if you tried to take her toy… after 3 months of working with her, she was still very toy-possessive, but no longer toy-aggressive. She still had a long way to go, but it took 3 months to get her to such a positive place to work from. Try not to be discouraged if things aren’t progressing as fast as you’d like – go at the pace of the dog; persistently but patiently.

Maggie

4. Understanding

There is a saying that Altitude is Attitude – meaning, in terms of dogs, that the dog who physically holds the highest ground, also holds the the highest rank in the hierarchy; they see themselves as the Alpha, the dominant dog, the top dog. This is very helpful to have in your mind for any kind of training; a dog that knows their place (not Alpha), has boundaries and structure, is a happy dog.

Being able to interpret what your pet is saying, with body language and facial expressions, help in understanding what your pet is telling you and how they are feeling.

5. Praise and Reward

This doesn’t mean you need to stock your cupboards full of dog treats! Praise can be fussing with positive words, petting and/or play. If the dog breed you are working with is prone to weight gain, it may be best to choose other options of reward, aside from treats, and/or invest in some healthier treats (for example; when I was a teenager, my best friend had a border collie who loved carrots – this was a good way to reward her with a healthy treat).

Jake – toy reward

6. Discourage Unwanted Behaviours Early

This doesn’t mean implementing negative training methods if your dog is not behaving in the desired manner; I mean this more in the sense of training your new puppy, or when working with an anxious dog or a rescue dog; let me explain a little…

Many behavioural issues in adults dogs come about by encouragement from us, because when this behaviour is performed as a puppy it’s seen as “cute”or “funny”. Let’s use tail chasing as an example; people laugh and fuss when a puppy chases it’s tail because it is amusing and/ or “cute” – this can lead to to tail chewing, often obsessively, and they can damage their own tail by doing so. This could just lead to damage to furniture, etc. when the dog is grown, and is too big to tail chase without knocking things over – thus causing the dog to be told off.

If your pup is doing a behaviour that could be (a) harmful to themselves in the future, or (b) a nuisance when performed by the adult dog, try to gently discourage this behaviour as early as possible, to prevent it from becoming an issue later on.


All images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Lloyd)

Domestic Equines


In today’s post I am going to cover some basic similarities and differences between common domestic equines; horses and ponies, donkey’s, and mule’s and hinny’s. All of these animals belong to the family Euqidae, and the genus Equus.

Horse (Maggie) and Donkey (Lucy)

Horses and Ponies

Most people know what horses and ponies are, but often are unsure what the difference is. A surprising (to me) number of people have asked me if ponies are baby horses – the answer to that is no; a baby horse or a baby pony (of either gender, under the age of 1 year) is known as a foal. An adult female is known as a Mare, and a juvenile female (under 4 years old) is known as a Filly. An adult male that has been neutered is known as a Gelding, and entire (not neutered) adult male is known as a Stallion, and a juvenile male (under 4 years old) is known as a Colt. The gestation period for horses and ponies is 11-12 months.

There are many different breeds of horses and ponies; from thoroughbred horses to draughts and Shire’s, from cobs to Shetland ponies; within the different types, there are a myriad of colours and patterns – some specific to the breed (e.g. Appaloosa – spotted horse (see below)), others being quite commonplace across many breeds.

Horses are larger than ponies; ponies reach up to 14.2 hh (hands high), and horses are 14.3 hh and taller. The tallest recorded horse to date is a a Belgian Gelding called Big Jake, who was measured in 2010 at just over 20.2 hh.

Horses and ponies have small ears and long faces, long tails and manes, deep chests, and long legs with rounded hooves. They are intelligent creatures, with brilliant speed, agility and strength. Horses have long manes and tails; which need to be kept neat and clean, and are often trimmed, clipped or plaited. Their coats are thin, compared to a donkey’s.

The noises horses and ponies make range from neighing and whinnying to snorting and sighing; these noises can vary a lot in and of themselves, depending on the animal’s mood – body language and posture both help to identify the mood, alongside noises.

Donkey’s

Donkey’s are smaller than horses, and smaller than a good number of pony breeds. An entire male donkey is a known as a Jack (hence the term “Jack-Ass”), a male donkey that has been castrated (or gelded) is known as a John or a gelded-Jack, and a female is known as a Jenny or a Jennet. As with horses and ponies, donkey foals are donkey’s (of either gender) up to one year old, a filly is a female donkey under 4 years of age, and a colt is a male donkey under four yeas old.

The African Wild Ass (which are a critically endangered species according to the IUCN Red List), with a decreasing population, are the wild relatives of the domestic donkey.

There are a fair few different breeds of donkey; from the American Mammoth to the Miniature Mediterranean to the (long-haired) Poitou. The most common colour for a donkey is grey, but they also come in brown, black, roan, white, and a mixture of all of the aforementioned colours; in speckles or patches or other patterns, or just as broken colours. Donkey’s are usually white underneath, but can be solid colours too. Some colours and/or patterns being breed specific.

Donkey’s range from around 7.3 hh to 15.3 hh, with the average height of a donkey being approximately 11-13 hh. Donkey’s are very strong, they have long ears, and hooves rounded the same as a horse/pony. Donkey’s have short brush-like manes, and short tails with fur covering the tail, and a collection of hair at the end. Donkey’s have thicker coats than horse and ponies.

Donkey’s are known to make a braying sound, which most of us would recognise as the classic “hee-haw” donkey noise; this noise is unique to donkey’s, as they can vocalise whilst breathing in and out, unlike horses and zebras. Donkey’s are also known to squeal and snort, amongst producing other sounds.

Mule’s and Hinny’s

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, whereas a hinny is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey. A female mule is called a Mare-mule or a Molly-mule, and a male mule is called a Horse-mule or a John-mule.

Genetically, horses have 32 pairs of chromosomes, and donkeys have 31 pairs; due to this, their offspring (when horses and donkeys are bred together) cannot themselves reproduce – they have 63 chromosomes, so one is left without a pair, resulting in mule’s and hinny’s being infertile.

Being part-horse and part-donkey, mule’s and hinny’s are, more often than not, taller than donkeys – ranging from approximately 12 hh to 17 hh. Some suggest that a mule is stronger than a hinny, but others believe it’s hard to gauge as it is hard to tell mule’s and hinny’s apart by appearance. They often inherit the best qualities of both the horse/ pony and the donkey parents; as with crossbreed dogs mule’s and hinny’s often inherit the good characteristics and physiology of their parents, and can be healthier. Physically they can range from looking quite donkey-like, to looking quite horse-like; more often than not they look like what they are – a mix of the two species.


All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Lloyd)

Merry Christmas 2019!


As this is my first Christmas as a married woman, things have been quite hectic – with a whole new side of the family to consider, and travel arrangements to put together! As such, I’ve seemingly run out of time to write a December post, aside from this; my annual Christmas post.

As regular readers will know from September’s post, my little puppy dog crossed over the rainbow bridge, and thus we will spend our first Christmas without him. I always bought our Barney a festive dog treat to keep him happy and occupied whilst we opened gifts, and shared food.

Christmas traditions come and go but as long as we remember the real reason for the season, and show love and kindness to one another – as He who is love, first loved us, and came into this world as a baby, born and laid in a manger, because He loved us; Christ died and rose again, because He loves us.

Please check out my past Christmassy posts here: 2017, 2016, 2014(1) and 2014(2).

And last but not least, Merry Christmas all!


All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Lloyd)

11th November – We Remember


This day, 11th November, we set aside to remember all the fallen in war; the hero’s who gave their today, for our tomorrow. These brave people and animals gave their lives, fighting to preserve all that they, and we, hold dear. Their selfless acts and sacrifices allow us the freedom we have; for that, and so much more, we remember them.

Horses are the animals primarily thought of when war animals are mention (at least in my experience in conversations); a war horse had many uses. Depending on the military role of the division in which a horse was placed, would often determine the use(s) of the animal.

A war horse would carry soldiers into battle, be used as transport for messengers, would pull equipment, machinery, artillery, supply carts, and much more. However, horses were integral to the war, and soldiers would form bonds with their horse, often sleeping close together for warmth when necessary. Donkey’s and Mule’s would also have been used for similar roles; however less so as transport for riders.

Perhaps a lesser-known animal used for pulling equipment and supplies, not used on the battlefield, but back home. Due to the usual animals used (horses, mules, donkeys, etc) as they had been taken into war, their roles at home were taken over by some less-common animals in their absence. Elephants and camels were used for transporting materials and such, as well as for ploughing fields, hauling hay/straw, and other every-day jobs that needed to be done. One of the more famous, was Lizzie the Indian elephant (pictured below); once part of a travelling circus, had her role in life completely altered by WW1 just as many people had – and she was put to work in a scrap metal yard in Sheffield.

Pigeons and dogs were also used to carry messages during war. Pigeons were useful with their homing instincts, being able to bring them back to where the message came from – thus being able to return a response message to the correct place as necessary. Dogs were able to navigate trenches and battlefields with more ease and speed than a human soldier, which made them great at transporting messages this way. Dogs had other uses in war, such as; being guard and/or watch dogs, using their keen sense of smell to find injured soldiers on the battlefield and carry medical supplies, as ratters, and (my no means least) as companions.

Cats would also have been used for companionship, as well as for rodent control in the trenches and living areas of the soldiers, as well as on Naval ships. As rodents spread disease and deplete food supplies, cats were of great value in war-time.

Although you probably wouldn’t have thought it, slugs were also of great value during war. How? Well, slugs have the ability to detect gas before humans. They close up their breathing pores and compress their body to protect themselves, and survive the gas. As such, soldiers would take a “Slug Brigade” with them, and when they saw the slugs react to gas, they put on their gas masks before the gas reached harmful levels, and many lives were saved.

Thanks to brave men and women on the battlefields, and back home; thanks to the many animals playing their part on the battlefields, and back home; thanks to the sacrifices made by so many, we have the lives we live today.

Please check out my November 2014 post Remembrance to see other animals that have been used in wars throughout history.


All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Lloyd)

Titbit follow-up: Bertie the Schnauzer

So training with Bertie has been pretty straight-forward, and quite easy – until the last time we had a trainging session, in which we continued lead training!

He’s not so keen to walk to heel when he knows a run on the field is just around the corner! But his owners and I have been working with him and he is getting better each time we go out. He is quite good with his recall training, but sometimes gets distracted by the 10 metre lead and decides to play with that instead!

Bertie

Initially treat motivation and reward was enough, especially with the basics; with more distractions and unwillingness to walk without pulling, I implemented a new reward – his favourite squeaky toy! This saw the change in his behaviour, as the motivation to be good for the reward was renewed. Clearly the treats are not what he’s most interested in as a reward, but play time with his favourite squeaky toy is a great reward; he is now motivated to do well again.

Don’t give up when training your pup gets tough – change tactics, change reward, change your approach – incorporate whatever positive thing works.


All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Holloway)

Goodnight and goodbye

To paraphrase the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy;

So long, and thanks for all the licks.

Last week (19/09/19) my family and I said our final farewell to our little dog – he was just over 15 years old, and he brought joy to our lives ever since we brought him home as a puppy in 2004.

It’s always sad to say goodbye to a member of the family – our Barney has been a part of ours since I was 13.

It’s never an easy decision to make; but for so many of us it’s a decision that has to be made, at some point, on behalf of our beloved pet. It was the kind call to make, for his sake, even though heartbreaking for us.

A piece of my heart went with him last Thursday, and he’ll always be treasured in our hearts and memories!

All we can do, as responsible persons for the lives of our animal family members, is to treat them well and give them a happy, healthy life. Then, if it comes down to it, we have the responsibility to not let them suffer too much at the end; and to be there for them – the way they’ve been there for us throughout their lives.

We are to do what’s best for them, as care-givers for as long as we get to have them in our lives!

Royal Mail Dog Awareness Week: 08-13 July 2019

Dog awareness week, this week, is to raise awareness of dog attacks on post men and women. The aim is to encourage dog owners to be responsible, with the aim of reducing/ eradicating attacks which can result in permanent/ disabling injury.

Over 2,000 dog attacks happened to post men and women in the past year! Over 80% of which happen when the dog is unrestrained in the front garden and at the door.

This is significant risk when you’re just trying to do your job!

Even the nicest dog can become defensive or fearful if it feels its’ territory and/or pack is being threatened – possibly causing your placid pooch to act out of the ordinary and attack the post delivering ‘intruder’. Any dog is capable of attacking; it is therefore the responsibility of you, the dog owner, to ensure the premises are safe and the dog secure when Royal Mail staff deliver your post.

If you have a dog that is aggressive for any reason, ensure you take necessary measures to ensure the safety of any person that may come to your home. This could simply be by ensuring your dog is shut in the house or back garden, having a cage round your letter box to protect the hand and post that comes through, having an external letter box, using a muzzle, having your dog on a lead … the list goes on! There are many little things you can do to help keep staff safe. This will also benefit your dog, as if they do cause substantial injury it could result in your pet being destroyed.

Post men and women should be able to go to work without fear, and do their jobs in safe environments. Be aware of your dog and those around your dog – be responsible and do your up most to ensure your dog is well trained, and all measures necessary are undertaken to keep everyone safe.


All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Holloway)

Want to know more? Crocodiles

With regard to the ears and hearing of Crocodiles – see my previous post. This post is just a short follow-up, with a bit more crocodile info…

Their nostrils can also close up to seal out the water when submerged. They have a long snout full of teeth! The fourth tooth (working from nose), on the bottom, is visible over the sides of the top lip.

The tongue of a crocodile is quite unusual in the fact it is fixed to the bottom of the mouth; it is immovable.

The double spikes along the length of the body and tail are called the scute. Each spike along the scute has bone…

The pattern of the scales on their head and snout are unique to the individual the same way our fingerprints are individual, or the patterns on a giraffe or leopard (etc)…

They really are (in my opinion) fascinating and magnificent creatures.


All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Holloway)

Dog groups: Hounds – Sighthounds

Sighthounds (a.k.a gazehounds) are hunting dog breeds that hunt by sight, and speed! As this group of dogs hunt by sight; they need the stamina, speed and agility to keep up with their prey.

As seen in the below image; Sightounds are slim built dogs (lean), with deep chests, long legs, and flexible backs – all traits which aid the dog in keeping up with their prey.

Saluki Whippet (TMSHG)
Deep chest, long (strong) legs, lean build – Saluki and Whippet. [Photo credit: Paul Morrison/ The Morrison Sighthound Gang on Facebook]
Sighthounds need exercise just like any other dog, but focusing on the type of exercise. As long as your sighthound gets a good sprint, a couple of 20-30 minute walks daily are quite sufficient (in between nice, long snoozes of course)!

Sighthounds playing (TMSHG)
Playful dogs from The Morrison Sighthound gang [Photo credit: Paul Morrison/The Morrison Sighthound Gang on Facebook]
Sighthounds are generally affectionate and friendly dogs, both with their human(s) and other dogs. However, are often not suited to living with small, fast animals as this may trigger their chase and hunt instincts!

Sighthound breeds include:

  • Afghan Hound
    Height: 60-75 cm, Weight: 25-35 kg, Lifespan: 12-14 years
  • Azawakh
    Height: 60-75 cm, Weight: 15-25 kg, Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Basenji
    Height: 38-43 cm, Weight: 9-12 kg, Lifespan: 12-16 years
  • Borzoi
    Height: 66-76 cm, Weight: 25-47 kg, Lifespan: 7-10 years
  • Greyhound
    Height: 68-76 cm, Weight: 26-40 kg, Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Ibizan Hound
    Height: 56-74 cm, Weight: 20-30 kg, Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Irish Wolfhound
    Height: 76-90 cm, Weight: 47-64 kg, Lifespan: 6-10 years
  • Italian Greyhound
    Height: 33-38 cm, Weight: 3-5 kg, Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Pharaoh Hound
    Height: 53-64 cm, Weight: 18-27 kg, Lifespan: 11-14 years
  • Saluki
    Height: 58-71 cm, Weight: 18-27 kg, Lifespan: 12-14 years
  • Scottish Deerhound
    Height: 70-80 cm, Weight: 35-50 kg, Lifespan: 8-11 years
  • Sloughi
    Height: 61-72 cm, Weight: 18-28 kg, Lifespan: 12-16 years
  • Whippet
    Height: 45-56 cm, Weight: 6-14 kg, Lifespan: 12-15 years

A Lurcher is a type of Sighthound but is not a purebreed, but a mix (this may be a mix of Sighthound breeds, or of a Sighthound and any other breed(s)). Lurchers will exhibit traits of the breeds that are in them, as with any other crossbreed, but will have the general appearance of a Sighthound.


I recommend checking out (via this link) The Morrison Sighthound Gang page on Facebook for more stunning photographs, as well as videos, and information. I want to thank The Morrison Sighthound Gang for the use of the images (all individually credited).


All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
. Google+ (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Holloway)