Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Why I still keep my 'paw' in!

I am always happy to help those who are prepared to listen and learn.  I am not an expert - never will be - and where animals are concerned, nobody truly is because there is always something else to be researched plus animals always have something new to tell us!  But if what I have learned in the past 38 years of learning about dogs, their training, behaviour and care can help someone and/or their dog then it has all been worthwhile  I might not be able to stand out on cold, wet, windy fields and teach training anymore nor can I spend my days travelling round helping people and dogs at home but I can still help.  The reward for me is knowing that I can and that some people do take it on board, even if others prefer to fish around until someone comes up with what they actually prefer to hear - which does sadly, still happen.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Just to say...

This blog is still active.  I just haven't got around to posting for a while.  More memories, thoughts and stuff coming soon.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Want a dog and working full time regularly?

Ok let's pause for a while and imagine ourselves what it is like to be a dog that is left alone whilst the owner is out of the house for 8 to 10 hours a day.

As an experiment, try imagining putting yourselves into a room (seperately) for at least 4 hours - alone. No TV, no telephones, no PC, nothing to read, gloves on your hands so that you cannot 'lint pick', a glass of water and a dry biscuit or two plus a few toys scattered around. You cannot go to the toilet for about 4 hours until someone arrives to open the door and then, after you have eliminated and had a play for 20 minutes or so, they shut you back in the room for another 4 hours. Silence. Nothing fun to do. Nobody to talk to, nothing to watch or listen to. No attention whatsoever. Then your owners come home! Great excitement! Yippee! You are so pleased to see them! They make a fuss, let you out and then after a while may walk you. Everything is great for the evening and weekends are wonderful with so much attention and company. But then Monday morning comes along and for another 4 or 5 days, the previous routine applies. Nothing to do, no-one to talk to, having to hold yourself as you cannot go to the toilet until allowed..... Could you cope long term? Humans are (on the whole) social, sentient creatures. So are dogs. No, dogs are not humans, but they have similar needs in a lot of ways.

Think about the above scenario and let it run through your mind. Do you think that a dog should have to endure that on a regular basis? Will you be able to cope when housetraining problems arise, when the neighbours start to complain about howling and barking, when you come home to a ripped up carpet and a chewed door. (Lonely dogs often try to dig, chew or scratch their way through a point of exit like the door)

15 years or so ago, most people in households where both partners worked all day would not have a dog as it 'wasn't fair'. Now, we want it all so people want to have a dog even though they and their partner work full time. 15 years ago, the rescue situation was busy but not at crisis point. Now, it is at the latter with thousands of dogs being given up because of poor housetraining, destructiveness and noisyness. Many give the dog up because it is boisterous (lack of training), aggressive (lack of socialisation) or howls the place down. (lonelyness) If only people would only have dogs when they truly have the time to devote to their socialisation and training then maybe the rescue situation would ease.

At the end of the day, it should be about what the dog needs and not about what you want. ;o)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Magic Wand Dog Training Center

As seen on a pet forum - not my work!



This is the Magic Wand Dog Training Center, we are unable to come to the phone but please press or enter the number for your request, and leave your name and number; we will return your call as soon as possible.
Press 1 if your dog has been asked to leave the local obedience club because she or he won't sit, wait, down,

or come when called, even when on leashed, so you thought you would try agility.
Press 2 if your Labrador is morbidly obese, and you thought you would try agility.
Press 3 if you want 30-minutes of advice and have no intention whatever of paying for it.
Press 4 if you describe your dog as 'a little bit naughty' when what you really mean is that the b*st*rd bites ... hard.
Press 5 if you want puppy-training classes, but your Boxer is already 12 months old.
Press 6 if you believe that just by turning up to one puppy-training class and doing no work whatsoever at home,

your puppy will grow-up to be a well-adjusted companion.

Press 7 if your nervous, aggressive GSD has bitten and hospitalized Aunt Maude, the vet, and your child,
and you want me to re-home the beast - but ONLY to someone who will keep the dog for their natural-lifetime, AND let the dog sleep in bed with the owner... just like home.

Press 8 if you have three children under school-age, an invalid parent living in your home, a partner who often is out of town on business, are pregnant with twins, and want your 8-MO Dalmatian who is never walked to stop chewing everything in sight.

Press 9 if you want to tell me my advice has not worked - even though you have not tried it yet.

Press 10 if you want to be dog trainer and behaviorist because you like animals better than people.

Press 11 if you are 15 years-old and want work experience with me, but would faint if I asked you to pick-up dog poop.

Press 12 if your dog is aggressive with other dogs, but you want to join one of my groups, because it will be so nice for him to have some friends.

Press 13 if you cannot afford my private rates and want a discount, because you only have one BMW.

Press 14 if you are canceling your lesson, due to start in 30-minutes, and have no intention of paying the cancellation fee.

Press 15 if you do not believe in rewarding a dog, and know that clicker training does not work, because your friend Beryl said so.

Press 16 if you think your dog knows he has done wrong when you tell him off, and that he obeys you
because he respects you and acknowledges you as a superior being.

Press 17 if you want me to wave my magic-wand over your contacts / weaves / start-line waits in just one session, and will then tell me it did not work when you go to a show just two days later, with no training in between.

Press 18 if you have eleven Jack Russell bitches in a small flat, and you want me to teach them not to fight with each other.

Press 19 if you already know everything about your breed, because this is the fourth one you have had,
and I cannot tell you anything new.

Press 20 if you want me to pick-up your dear departed dog's ashes from the vets, and keep them at my house because you are much too upset to have them in your home (true!).

Press 21 if you would never use a Gentle Leader, indoor-crate, or harness because they are all cruel.

Press 22 if you will not put a muzzle on your deadly-aggressive dog, because you do not want people to think he is nasty.

Press 23 if you want to leave an increasingly angry third message for this week, demanding an urgent return-call, and yet again forget to leave your name or phone-number.

Press 24 if, having ascertained I am out, you wish to ask my engineer-husband for behavioral advice about your dog.

Press 25 if you wish to fill my answering machine with a complex, incoherently rambling message.

Press 26 if want your intact-male adolescent dog to spend his days lying patiently on the front step of your
unfenced property, because dogs shouldn't want to run away, should they.

Press 27 if you want me to teach your untrained Border Collie to play with sheep because you think this manic dog will like it.

Press 28 if your dog thinks her or his name is "NO".

Press 29 if it is before 8-am or after 10-pm, and you want to ask how to stop your 13-week-old puppy
from biting your 5, 7 and 9 year-old boys when they play-fight with your puppy.

Press 30 if you've taken time to socialize and train your dog, and want to make an appointment to learn more fun stuff.

No need to hold, I'll put you right through!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Does Giving Treats Reward Aggression?

Sadly humans are often too quick to punish a dog for growling at people instead of sitting back and working out how they can get the dog over this fear. Recently I was given a link to a lovely video which explains so simply how to do the latter, quickly and effectively, without the need to 'boss' the dog and chastise it for bad manners. Here's the link so that you can see for yourselves. :o) Does Giving Treats Reward Aggression?

Good dog training and behaviour modification is all about using your brain, not your brawn. ::winks::

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Housetraining your pup or older dog

Whatever you do, never ever tell your pup off for toileting in the house in front of you, no matter how tempting that might be. Doing so just tells him that he mustn't let you see him do it so he won't go if you stand outside with him either but rather wait until he is back indoors and your attention is taken by something else!

*Take pup outside when he wakes up, after he has eaten and also every hour to an hour and a half during the day as well, especially when he is first learning - this amount of time can be lengthened in short increments as he gets better at it.

*Repeat a word or phrase when he is outside (I use 'Get it done!) and praise hugely when he 'performs'.

*Ignore all mistakes and clean them up without a word - it was a humans fault that it happened as they were not watching for the signs.

*If he sneaks off to do it (maybe because of being told off for doing it in front of his owner!) then be aware of that and keep an eye on him.

*Using paper is up to you but I prefer to teach pups to go outside.

*At night time, it does help if the pup is taken out last thing before you go to bed and then bedded down in a restricted area like a crate or puppy pen. Or you can block off a part of the room with an old fireguard or heavy, large objects etc.

*In the morning, take the pup outside as soon as you can, ignoring any mess he may have made overnight. I tend not to let my pups go beyond 7 or 8 hours at night.

Housetraining will take far longer if you work or go out a lot as nobody is there to teach him so be aware of that. Some toy breeds are reputed to take longer to train so a little more work and vigilance may be needed with them, bearing in mind that tiny dogs have tiny bladders and bowels so may need to go that bit more often.

Remember that a dogs housetraining may take a backward step if it has been stressed by something, like a move or someone new has joined the household, or indeed someone may have left. Fireworks or thunder may also cause a lapse in cleanliness - when you are stressed or scared do you not want to go to the loo more often? Illness, particularly urine infections can cause temporary incontinence too so if your previously clean dog suddenly becomes dirty it may be wise to get him/her checked out by a vet.

Finally, be prepared! Have a bucket or tub somewhere handy with kitchen towel, cloths, disinfectant and a carpet cleaning spray in it along with plastic bags to put the soiled kitchen roll or cloths into. Clear up the mess first and then wash the area thoroughly with a fluid designed to get rid of smells at source rather than one that just masks them. I personally use Odor-Kill, both in my yard and in the house if ever an accident occurs.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

'Scuse me, I wonder if I could have some advice?

Back in the days when I practiced as a dog training instructor and behaviour counsellor, my phone would often ring with enquiries about my services or sometimes just to try to cadge some free, over-the-phone advice. Now I rarely gave the latter as I considered it to be inapporiate to do so. After all, you would not ring up a plumber to ask how to fix a dripping tap now would you rather than pay him for his time and workmanship? I spent rather a lot of money and time on educating myself so that I could help people with their dogs and I was not a charity! But there would always be someone who tried it on and who would launch into a tale of woe about their dogs before I had the time to tell them I did not give advice over the phone.

Here are a few memorable examples;

Me: Hello?
Woman: Ello duck. (they call you duck round here, gawd knows why!) I've got a problem with me dog and I wondered if you could give me some advice?
Me: Well I don't actually do that? I could make you an appointment for me to come and see you though?
Woman: No need for that duck, just some advice I'm after. I've got this dog...........
I was then told that he destroyed furniture and carpets and 'messed' whilst being left alone all day, 5 days a week while she went out to work and that the blighter did the same on Tuesday and Thursday evenings when she went to Bingo! Then came the punchline, the one that actually did have me banging my head on the wall! I don't know why he does this to me as I buy him a cooked chicken from ASDA all to himself every Sunday!

I put the phone down on her. I was laughing so much that I was nearly crying. I had actually started to bang my head on the wall near the phone. I was in danger of disgracing myself and telling the stupid bat to 'F*** off back to ASDA and get him a pudding as well and then he won't be so naughty!'

Another one came earlier in my career as a DTI and BC.
Me: Hello? (noting the time was in fact 11.30 at night.)
Man: I'm ringing up about your dog training duck, what days it's on, what time classes are and how much it is?
Me: Do you have a clock?
Man: Errr yes?
Me: I suggest you look at it and then, after I have put the phone down on you, you will know exactly why.

I then put the phone down and rolled over whilst making a mental note to get an answering machine for idiots who make calls after 9pm.

Oh and then of course I just had to have a woman ring me at 6.50 am one morning to ask the same. She got the same response and I resolved to put on my new posters 'Please call for more details between 8.30am and 9pm only - answerphone in operation at other times!

Then there would be the people who called saying they had got a rescue dog the week (or even day) before and wondered why it wouldn't come back when they let it off on the park.... Or those with 9 week old pups who wondered when they would learn to be clean as they were fouling the kitchen when they went out to work all day 5 days a week.....................

We changed our number the day I decided not to do dog training and behaviour etc anymore. We also plastered up the dent in the wall. :o)

I miss it all in a way, lol!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

It is a sad time for dog training

Sadly after all the hard work done by trainers and behaviourists in the UK to promote more up to date methods which do not cause pain or stress to dogs, we are now facing a new threat. That threat is Cesar Millan, the so called 'Dog Whisperer'. He is now alpha rolling, jabbing and jerking his way into our TVs, radios. magazines and newspapers with his 'Way' and setting dog training methods in modern day UK back to the old days.

In our celebrity obsessed culture we now have CM fans who adore this little man, hanging on his every word and wowing at his magic touch with dogs. His methods include finger jabbing dogs in the neck to 'get their attention'; hanging them up by their leads and collars until semi-asphyxiated then claiming that they have calmed down and 'submitted' when in reality they are in shock and fighting to get their breath back!; 'alpha rolling them and pinning them to the floor (normally after muzzling them first) to show the viewers how to 'dominate' their dogs and so on.

It depresses me even describing his antics and it depresses me even more that there are so many pet owners being taken in hook, line and sinker by this dog wrestler!

Think about it folks! How many actual respected dog trainers and behaviourists in the UK and in the USA do you see applauding his methods? The American Humane Association themselves condemned his methods back in 1996! Many other professional bodies have also expressed their concerns at this mans popularity yet still people faun over him like he is some sort of demi-god!

Educate yourselves people, for dogs sake!

Are the dog whisperers methods harmful?

An aggressive and frightened dog muzzled, repeatedly jabbed then held down forcibly. Is THIS dog training???

Here he not only kicks and jerks the dog to start it off, he then hangs it until it can't breathe too! Is this 'dog training' to you???

The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors has released a press release expressing concerns.

I have trained hundreds of people with their dogs. Some of those dogs I have seen privately because of their extreme aggression. Not once in all the time I have been working with dogs have I ever pinned one down, jabbed at it, kicked it or choked it so that it couldn't breathe. Yet through hard work and commitment by their owners, these dogs were rehabilitated and overcame their problems! Go figure!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Dog Warden Days

I spent four years working as a dog warden until my health began to play up leaving me incapable of doing the job anymore.  My time spent doing that job was eventful to say the least but I do not regret a minute of it.  I did continue to run my own training classes at weekends as well at first but then I realised that the stress of dealing with errant dog owners all week and then trying to help and teach owners at weekends was getting too much so I gave them up as the job had to come first!

During my four year stint I often came into close contact with the less desirable members of our society including drug pushers, addicts, alcoholics, and other strange people.  But I also met some incredibly nice people who really seemed as though they did not belong on the sink estates that I had to frequent all too often. 

A few examples;
I reunited one lady with a dog she had lost a year ago, which had been found straying on the next estate to her, complete with nice new collar on!  The dog was microchipped yet had never been scanned until I picked her up so had been kept by someone else for a whole year until one day she had strayed!  Her original owner was over the moon, the more recent keeper less so, but as far as I was concerned, the original owner was genuine (she had reported the dog missing a year before according to our files) so that was the end of the matter.  Moral of story?  If you find a dog, report it to the dog warden who can then scan it to see if there is an owner.  If not then you may keep hold of it but the dog warden will have to take a photo and details and issue you with a Finders Notice which means that you should keep the dog yourself in case an owner turns up.  If someone reports it missing then the Dog Warden will send them to you and you have to return the dog to them but do remember that you have the right to ask the owner to refund you any vets fees and food costs you may have incurred so keep receipts.  After 28 days have passed, you may keep the dog yourself or rehome it yourself.   On the other hand, if you allow the dog warden to collect the dog from you then it will be kept for just 7 days in kennels before being rehomed.  Sick, aggressive or badly injured dogs may be put down though depending on the local authority.  But do not simply keep the dog yourself in the first place!  You have a legal duty to report all found strays to the local authority.  The police rarely deal with strays now and vets and RSPCA can do nothing about them either.

The next is a longer story;
I was called out one day as a lady had reported a 'bleeding Rottweiller' in her front garden!  No, she wasn't swearing!  There was quite literally, a very large male Rottweiller in her garden, laid down with blood dripping from a 5 inch gash in its' face!  An RSPCA Animal Collection Officer had turned up too (heavens knows why as strays were my domain not hers) and was trying to tempt it with biscuits which the dog kept eating before lunging at her with a menacing snarl!  After standing back and watching (well it was funny!) I then felt that the dog would be better off in my van to be taken to a vets straight away.  I called up the neighbouring dog warden aften restraining the dog calmly with my grasping pole and between us we heaved him in.  He spect a few days in the vets and the owner collected him and paid the bill.  It turned out that the dog had been taken off his yard and slashed across the face with possibly a razor as some sort of warning to the owner who was a dodgy character to say the least!  

Six months later I met said Rottweiller again, this time with a younger Rotty male, patrolling the street where he lived and terrifying the neighbours who dare not come out!  They had somehow got out of their yard and no-one was home so I had to set about catching them.  The one with the scar down his face I recognised straight away and I knew he liked biscuits so I took a chance!   I walked over calmly, avoiding eye contact, dog biscuits in hand and asked him to 'Sit!' which he duly did!   So then I put my arm through a slip lead and popped a biscuit in the same hand and asked the dog to sit again.  As he did so, I dropped the open slip lead straight round his neck and rewarded him with more biscuits to a huge cheer from curious residents who were all watching from the safety of their bedroom windows!  I then lured 'Scarface' over to my open van doors and threw biscuits inside the cage.  In he popped like a sweetheart and I closed the cage door, trapping the lead handle in it to make it easy to get him out later.  Upon my doing this he turned round and threw himself at the cage door with such a roar that I jumped backwards!  But he was secure so I locked the van doors and went after his younger friend. 

After following the other Rottweiller around the close, I managed to corner him (he was very nervous) and got him with the grasper.  Leading him back to the van was great fun as he leapt about like a fish trying to escape from a line and roared his defiance at me all the way!   I was so glad that I had chosen the six foot grasping pole!  But, he was not as obliging as Scarface and no way would he jump up into the other cage in the van!  I cajoled and encouraged, I pushed and I pulled but no!  He would much rather try to take my head off than go in that van!  It was then I espied the two young policemen watching me from a garden gate.  They had been to see a resident on another matter and were now watching me with some amusement!  Huh!  So I called to them sweetly and asked for some assistance!  I nearly died with laughter when they dashed first to their squad car and re-emerged wearing their leather driving gloves!  Some protection they were going to be!  I organised the two coppers into a team and had one holding open the cage door ready to slam it once the dog was in.  The other I told to push as hard as he could on the dogs backside once I had managed to lift the pole enough to get his front paws onto the bumper!   We did it on a count of three and the second Rotty was in the van!  I have never seen two policemen more relieved in my life!  I drove to the holding kennels with a barking, rocking, rolling van which seemed to bemuse other drivers every time I stopped at the lights!  I think they thought I had two lions in the back as the poor little van was literally rocking from side to side amid roars of fury from the two dogs inside!  Once there, I was assisted by another dog warden in getting the dogs out and into the kennels.  Their owner did not collect them this time and sadly both dogs were put to sleep after 7 days as they were so aggressive that even the kennel staff could not clean their kennel out much less exercise them!   Huh!  I caught them both on my own!  What was their problem?

My last two stories are about dogs whose owners should have been shot at dawn in my opinion!

Poor dog 1;
I was called to assist the council and police in breaking into a locked flat where there was a dog present.  The tenant had ignored all contact from the council and the flat below was experiencing water leaking through their ceiling!  Once inside, I made one of the policeman go first in case there was a dead body in there! (Have you noticed how bossy I am with coppers?) The floor was strewn with faeces and rubbish and we really had to watch our step!  Whe he opened the living room door, the policeman suddenly gasped Oh my god!" and took his hat off.  Thinking he had found a body I asked if there was one.  He said  (and I have never forgotten his words) "No duck but come and look at this poor bugger!"  I walked in and there, standing up on the back of the sofa was the most emaciated labrador sized dog I had ever seen.  The petrified animal looked like he had stepped out of Belsen!  There was not an ouce of flesh on him.  Every bones stuck out and even his eyes were sunken.  The policeman, a dog lover had tears in his eyes at the sight.  I moved slowly towards the dog and he screamed and jumped onto the window sill!  I reached out slowly with my grasper (there was no getting near this one with a slip lead!) and caught him gently all the time talking to him him quietly.  As I led him from the flat all the workmen and the other polcemen fell silent, I do not think they could believe how the dog was still alive.  Of course, it became an RSPCA case and the 22 year old, 8 months pregnant woman who owned him received  a five year ban from keeping animal and was ordered to pay £100 fine. 

The dog was adopted by someone who cared for him whilst they got him back up to normal weight.  Names and faces removed to preserve anonymity.

His previous owners' defence was that she was pregnant!  I suppose she was allowed to keep the baby...

Nuff said!

Poor dog 2; (Not for the squeamish!)
This one I do not have pictures of and to be honest, you would not really have wanted to see it!   It was a very hot August day (can you tell this was some years ago?)  I was called to an estate local to where I live where there were reports of a sick little dog collapsed under a hedge.   When I got there he had gone but I drove round the streets nearby until a lady told me he had gone up a path and behind an empty house.  As I walked up the path I thought I could smell a dead body and as I rounded the corner, there, laid flat out on the garden was a little grey dog, about the size of a jack russell.  I thought at first that it had died until I realised that its' ribcage was still moving.  The dog was devoid of hair from nose to tail apart from a few clumps and seemed to be covered in some sort of skin condition. I lifted its' head by the collar and it was then I saw an empty eye socket, seething with maggots and putrified flesh dropping out of it!  (I did say 'Not for the squeamish!)  The dog absolutely reeked of 'death' but I had to get it to the van somehow.  As it could not walk, there was only one thing for it.  Yes, I picked it up!  I carried it (trying not to inhale!) to the van and laid it carefully in a cage.  Its' skin was so sticky, it was literally rotting to death!  I drove the six miles to the vet we used and rushed in to get them outside to it as no way was I taking it in!  They agreed with me and put the poor thing to sleep straight away.  I then left my van with my boss as he wanted to clean it to get rid of the smell and any disease and I returned home.  The next day, I investigated and managed to find out who owned it!  I took another council official round and we interviewed yet ANOTHER heavily pregnant woman!!!  She denied knowing that the dog was so ill and had no idea it was missing an eye!  She actually blamed her ten year old girl as 'She should have been bathing it!'  How I contained myself I do not know but I remained very professional and informed (the cow!) calmly that the RSPCA would be in touch.  I then returned to my van and called the RSPCA and made a formal report, setting the wheels in motion on behalf of that poor little dog.  I then took the van back, went home and broke down.  I suffered Post Traumatic Stress for 7 months afterwards and ended up having hypnotherapy and normal therapy by a counsellor was no help at all.  I was left with (and still have) a phobia about the smell of death and feel physically sick if I even think I can smell it.  The RSPCA Inspector and I worked for a year putting the case together only for Head Office to accept the womans excuse that the little girl should have looked after it and she could not have it put down because the kids would have been too upset!  They just gave her a written caution so that the case did not even go to court!   The RSPCA Inspector was furious and could not even look me in the eye when he told me but he could do no more.

Now do people understand why I am not a 'people person' and why I am more at ease in the company of animals and certain like minded folk only?  Yes I am a cynic and yes I detest and loathe cruelty and neglect.  The animal is NEVER to blame, no matter what it is supposed to have done and so called civilised humans should know better!  Funnily enough, I am still not anti RSPCA but by crikey their Head Office bods need to get back to the floor and see what it is like in the real world!  The Inspector in the above case was not at fault as far as I'm concerned. 

The above are just a few of my experiences as a Dog Warden.  It's not a job I recommend as unless you are rock hard, it will get to you in the end.  It started to depress me after the 'rotting dog' episode and my heart went out of the job.  I also started to suffer with my health so eventually I quit.  I too often felt quite vulnerable, not that I was scared of any of the dogs I dealt with (though some were dangerous!) but some of the the owners were something else!  There were times when I feared for my safety to be honest.   But there were also times when I feared for my sanity.  When I started to go through a huge box of Rennies per week, I knew it was time to quit!

Please note that I will not allow anti-RSPCA comments on as this blog can be read by anyone and I do not want lawsuits for libel!