Category: Dogs

Puppy Tails (1)

Puppy Tails (1)


Introducing Rollo; active, happy, speedy puppy with bundles of energy and lots of love to give. He is a lurcher (greyhound mix) collie mix, and the best birthday gift a girl could hope for!

Rollo, when we first brought him home 殺

He is our newest addition to the family – at 11 weeks old now, he is having his second set of vaccinations (and microchip) this afternoon, meaning he will be able explore the big, wide world beyond the house and garden!

In this, the first puppy “tail”/ tale, we will look at some of the habituation training we’ve been doing with Rollo, to prepare him for the big, wide world out there!

Rollo at 8 weeks old.

Firstly, for those who are unfamiliar with habituation training, this is training that teaches a dog to be okay with a stimulus. Basically, you acclimatise the dog to the stimulus you’re exposing it to.

It is important, when habituating your dog to a stimulus, that you do not comfort your dog. If a dog acts fearfully or anxiously to something they need not fear, and comfort is given to that reaction it will reinforce the fear/ anxiety to that stimulus. By comforting your dog you are reinforcing to them that their reaction was correct.

Some of the main sound stimuli that dogs often show fear toward are:

• Thunder
• Fireworks
• Vacuum cleaner
• Loud vehicles

To habituate Rollo to these sounds, he first had to be exposed to the sounds and his reaction gauged, to know where to begin.

Let’s look at the first two; thunder and fireworks – not sound stimuli that you can schedule training around, as you often get little to no warning of when these sounds may come up in life (you can’t always rely on the weather forecast ).

We are fortunate to have a (modest) surround sound system in our living room, as well as a Chromecast device which allows us to play sounds and videos via the TV and the surround sound. So, to introduce Rollo to the stimuli of thunder and fireworks we found videos and sound clips online, and played them through the surround sound. Starting off at a very low volume (which we struggled to hear, but Rollo (having superior dog hearing) could hear just fine) we played several different videos – firstly of fireworks, then the same with thunder.

Rollo was unsure the first few times we played the fireworks – he sought comfort the first time, and whined a little in his uncertainty. We carried on as normal with what we were doing, and encouraged Rollo to continue playing with his toys. We did this several times over a couple of weeks – after a week he just didn’t react any more, but continued with whatever he was doing (playing, eating, napping, etc.) at the time.

After the first few times, when Rollo’s reaction was lessening, we increased the volume each time to continue habituating him to this noise. The volume increases didn’t seem to get much of a response from Rollo, other than that he seemed to acknowledge the sudden noise interrupting his day. During the second week, with the volume at a suitable level Rollo had completely given up on reacting in any kind of negative or anxious way to the fireworks stimulus.

We repeated this training method with playing thunder through the surround sound with Rollo, and his reaction was significantly less to the thunder than to the fireworks. This may be due to the firework habituation training having gone so well, or simply because Rollo is unaffected by the noise (my previous dog, Barney, used to love to bark at thunder and fireworks just to join in being noisy – not out of any fear or anxiety). After just over a week of doing this with thunder, Rollo was showing no negative or anxious reactions – success!

Rollo age 10 weeks, enjoying his teddy – giving no reaction to the noises from the surround sound system.

We still occasionally play thunder and fireworks, just to keep the habituation successful whilst he’s still young. The real test of this habituation training will be when he hears thunder and fireworks for real, for the first time!

Throughout the above, Rollo was also being habituated to the vacuum cleaner – let’s face it, I can’t not vacuum so he needs to gets used to that! We have a Henry Hoover, which Rollo was very suspicious of at first, as Henry was a lot bigger than him when we first brought Rollo home! Rollo pawed and mouthed at Henry with his strange nose and funny feet! He wasn’t too fussed on Henry until the noise came… That spooked Rollo the first time – he barked and whined and ran away from Henry. Rollo soon settled down as we didn’t react to Henry (or comfort Rollo) and he soon realised the noise was nothing to fear.

But then came the movement; a noisy Henry in the corner is one thing, but a noisy Henry moving around the house is another! Using Henry to actually vacuum (not just so Rollo could get used to the sound) sparked the barking and whining and retreating reaction again. Again, we didn’t react or comfort, and we (whoever wasn’t manning the vacuum) encouraged Rollo to continue what he was doing.

Whilst Rollo doesn’t react so extremely any more to Henry, he still usually stops what he’s doing and watches from a safe distance until Henry is quiet and back in his corner. This is a good reaction in my book, for the time being, as Rollo is not fearful or anxious, but we will continue to work on this as Rollo also isn’t completely comfortable around the noisy, moving Henry (he may never be, but dog training is an ongoing thing).

Rollo age 9 weeks, with his Nylabone chew, showing mild interest in Henry Hoover’s stationary noisiness.

Finally, when we’ve had Rollo on his various leads in the front and back gardens (lead training will be covered in a future “Puppy Tail”), we’ve used the opportunity to allow him to become habituated to the noises of the neighbours, the street and various vehicles.

Our back garden backs onto a train track, with fairly frequently running trains (at all hours of the day and night). Foxes often run around the neighborhood, and there are plenty of birds and squirrels around too! Cats roaming their territories, and dogs in neighbouring gardens or being walked down our street, are frequent sights. Cars, motorcycles, buses, lorries, cyclists and pedestrians are also frequent down our (relatively busy) little road. All of these things, and more, have caught Rollo’s attention and sparked a reaction in the beginning.

Trains and other vehicles, and the local wildlife, Rollo just takes in his stride now – they’re just part of the background noise to life. People and other dogs he so badly wants to interact with, which is only natural whilst he’s confined to the house and gardens – this training will continue on walks in the outside world. Cats, he doesn’t (at the moment) react to in any way as they stay well out of reach.

He does still enjoy watching the world go by from the driveway, now he’s used to the noises and activities going on, on our road. The main thing is that Rollo has been given the time and the training to acclimatise to these everyday stimuli, so these things are less of a worry when he is able to go for walks beyond the realm of his home and gardens.

Rollo age 10.5 weeks enjoying watching the world go by, from the safety of the driveway.

All images are either 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 the social media pages…

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Dog photography

Dog photography


Just a brief post to share some photos of Tilly and her friends, now that she’s enjoying being with other dogs again (successful but still ongoing rehabilitation with Tilly)! It’s a thrill to see her socialising well still, for the most part, and getting excited to see her friends.

My dad always told me, when I needed to take photos of animals as part of coursework for my college diploma and my university degree, that to get the best photos of animals you need to get on their level! Now that was tricky when I had an assignment about giraffe’s!

You may not be an avid photographer, but we all take photos of our pets! I like candid photos as much as the next person, but I also love how my animal photos look when I follow my dad’s advice and get on their level. Just thought I’d share this little tip with you all! See for yourself below…


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


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Titbit: Tilly the mix-breed rescue

Titbit: Tilly the mix-breed rescue


AMIDST THE CRAZINESS of the world right now, in times of lock-down (for many countries), there are a lot of people crying out for help. With people being made jobless, or being furloughed, or too unwell to help themselves – whatever the reason – we need to stand together (2 m/ 6 ft apart) until this is all over. I am based in England, UK and I noticed that Facebook (at least on my app) has a COVID-19 help centre, for people to offer and/ or request help during these uncertain times… this is how I came to meet Tilly! Her owner cannot walk her all the time at the moment, so I have the privilege of walking her when I am needed.

Tilly is a beautiful 10 year old mix-breed, who was rescued by her owner at age 5. She can be nervy of bigger dogs, due to previous bad experiences; overall she is a happy, well-behaved, loving girly living her ‘golden years’. She has been a breath of fresh to me during lock-down, as she is my four-legged (almost) daily exercise companion – being an animal lover, going for a walk is just that little bit better with an animal by my side!

Tilly

It’s always fun (i.m.o.) getting to know a new animal; getting to know their personality and who they are! As her hearing and sight are not what they used to be, I have had to learn to adapt some of my normal dog walking style to fit in with her.

As regular readers of my website posts (if there are any) will know, my little Barney crossed the rainbow bridge September 2019, aged 15. His eyes were getting cloudy, but his hearing was still pretty decent. I often use a ‘click’ sound to encourage a dog to keep close/ up and to ‘whistle’ to recall a dog from a distance; with Tilly being harder of hearing, I have learned to give a ‘whistle’ in lieu of a ‘click’ and she responds well.

As she can be nervous of bigger dogs (especially if they are over-excited or lunge (even in play)), I have become more vigilant with taking stock of any dogs in the area; noting size, behaviour, and whether or not they are off-leash. In terms of her deteriorating eye-sight, she can definitely find her way with her nose if she is struggling to see; I am ensuring to talk to her and/ or allow her to smell me before going in to fuss and pet her – just so she is aware I’m there, and avoid startling her!

I am sure Tilly is adapting to me, as much as I am to her; as we continue to get to know each other better, and learn to be out together in the current climate, I am enjoying her company and hope I prove to be an enjoyable exercise companion to her too!


All images are either 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 the social media pages…
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Dog Training: Basic Tips

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.

Puppy Winston – treat reward

All images are either 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 the social media pages…
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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…
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Titbit follow-up: Bertie the Schnauzer

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…
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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…
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Dog groups: Hounds – Sighthounds

Sighthounds are hunting dog breeds that hunt by sight, and speed! As this group of dogs hunt by sight.

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