Thursday, 3 December 2009

The trials part three - On Patrol

We have two types of walk that we do with our dogs - on and off lead. These are our off lead 'patrols'.

Meg happily trots at your side or behind you regardless of if she is on or off the lead. When off the lead she can go off foraging but only if accompanied by Jack. Meg likes to flush rabbits and then watch Jack chase them. Apologies to all fluffy bunny lovers but this is a trait that is a central part of their make up. They have never caught a rabbit, nor even come close to it, but it is what terriers do. Meg will occasionally run around like a mad thing but it is rare and very short lived.

Ghyll is a sniffer and supreme cocker of legs! He does not wander far from us at all and is usually bringing up the rear and checking out all the wee mails left by other dogs. He likes to say hello to other dogs and is usually quite restrained in his approach. This has been changing and he has become a little too eager, but always lies down in front of the other dog to allow a full scent check out.

Ghyll also loves children and adopts the same 'roll over' approach with them. But we do not allow him to run to children so Ghyll is always kept on the lead if we see families around. It is hard when parents allow their children to rush up to the dogs, but we can usually stop the children making contact before their little arms are flung around our dogs necks. As an aside this behaviour really worries me. Parents please don't allow your children to run up to strange dogs, or even not dogs they know. A simple 'Can I stroke your dog' diffuses all energy and allows us as dog owners to show children how to approach dogs correctly.

Jack is a chaser of things and has very poor recall - around 60% at the moment. Jack does not chase other dogs, balls, runners or cyclists he chases trains and birds. Jack yips and yaps with virtually every step he takes and winds himself up tighter than a tight thing on a tight day! He does however walk to heel without command when on a path. Its just the moment those paws reach a field he runs off with wild abandon.

Off lead walks have stopped entirely until we have adjusted the dogs behaviour and taught them true 100% recall. Our new lunge line arrived this morning and we will start to use it when all 3 dogs have got a harness.

We also have issues with Jack patrolling our garden. As soon as the back door is opened he rushes out straight to the bottom of the garden and starts barking. You can watch him wind himself up as he paces backwards and forwards, circling around the garden and scenting at stragetic points as he goes.

We are currently working on Jack's behaviour when the back door is opened, it is working, and he is only allowed into the garden on a lead. As we have two barking dogs either side who have scratched and clawed at the fences inbetween them it is very, very hard work. Now if I could get my neighbours to stop leaving their dogs outside in all weathers to bark incessantly it would help - but they won't so we are having to work extra hard to help Jack realise we are not in danger from the outside world.

Neither Ghyll nor Meg have issues with our garden unless of course the window cleaner arrives and then it is frantic barks all round. That is something we are working on with all dogs but as we only have the windows cleaned once a month we may need to enlist the help of a volunteer to wander around with a ladder!

The trials part two - Food and toys

Jack and Ghyll will not share anything with each other - apart from a dog bed.

Ghyll has become possessive of any trophy he may have from chews to leaves out of the garden. This was the start of many problems that have now escalated into fights between the boys. Ghyll now gets his little trophies and scurries off into a corner with his back to the world. Any approach from Jack sees him snap and snarl...and this little tyke does not give in. When Ghyll is outside he does like to play ball but he is not obsessive and will share with other dogs - indeed he offers his ball to others. We use grass balls and can highly recommend them.

Jack insists that all toys are his and will take them from the other two dogs. If he has a tug he violently shakes it, bashing himself in the process as he swings it around. He will chase a ball in the house, bring it back to you and leave it without prompting. Outside he does not even acknowledge anything you may have to hand.

Meg plays occasionally with toys but not very often. She will touch any object with her nose or paw but she is far above running around and games of tug.

We currently have removed all active toys until the dogs excitement levels have dropped and they learn to respect each other.

I find this difficult as I used to enjoy setting time aside to play with the dogs but as last night proved they simply cannot play together at all for the moment. We had purchased a Dog Magic toy for hiding treats and allowing the dogs to use their nose to find the reward but this resulted in a fight last night - the worst one so far - and it will only be used when this aggression and frustration has gone. Jack's face is swollen and he has a gash along the bridge of his nose, Ghyll however came off much worse last night with a deep puncture wound at the base of one of his pads and a hole in his lip where he bit himself - he is limping badly today.

I was very distressed last night so fired a quick email off to Theo, the Dog Lady. Theo emailed me back within 15 minutes and 10 minutes later we were discussing matters on the telephone. Her words of wisdom, encouragement and reassurance brought me more comfort than I could have ever believed. Thank you Theo!

The dogs have no problem with food and eat together next to one another with no issues whatsoever. There is no bowl guarding and they do not approach each others bowls when they have finished. We feed our dogs on Burns dried dog food which is holistic, hypoallergenic and free from all things artificial. If we are doing high energy stuff, particularly our hikes in the Lake District during December, we also add brown rice or pasta and vegetables. We do insist the dogs show respect for our own personal space when we are weighing out their dinner and we now eat a little something (currently a tub of twiglets is on hand)  before the dogs have theirs.

The dogs rarely have treats but when they do we give them dried tripe stick. As titbits for training and scent games Dean gets the secateurs out and snips the sticks up into tiny pieces. We did used to give them calcium bones to gnaw and chew but with Ghyll's attitude these have been removed for now.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The trials part one - Walkies!

Apparently with a blog post it should be kept short and sweet - not much luck with that happening here!

Anyway we move onto the trials.


Meg had never been walked on a lead until she arrived at Appledown. The hardworking
staff got Meg used to a collar and lead using the field next door. Meg had been in the kennels for about 4 days when we first met. She had to be quarantined for two weeks before she could leave with us so that the staff at Appledown could ensure she was fit and healthy. We visited Meg everyday and walked her for longer and longer periods each day. By the time Meg came home with us she was perfect on the lead. Indeed the lead is so slack you don't even realise she is there.

Ghyll had never been walked on a lead either, but as a young pup that is to be expected. Ghyll loves to go out for his walks and has been very quick to learn how to behave on the lead. We had no problems with him until we got Jack, but as he was still a young dog perhaps issues would have arose anyway.

Jack had never been walked on a lead. He did however wear a collar, albeit a little tight. The first walk was hard. Jack pulls and weaves and Dean had to resort to the stop, start, change direction hokey cokey walk with him! It raised many eyebrows amongst fellow dog walkers but this has never been something to bother us. Jack has become fairly well mannered on his walks but still pulls and weaves slightly. It usually wears off 5 minutes into the walk once he realises that his efforts get him nowhere.

We have stopped walking them for 2+ hours per day until we can get Jack and Ghyll to trust and respect us enough to stop trying to dictate where we will be heading.

We have changed our before walk routines in the hope that we can slow their anticipation and excitement. Walks are now only one dog at a time for 5 minutes at a time until the pulling and weaving completely stop. Once we have that in hand we will take the boys out one at a time with Meg and then finally all 3 together.

The actual walk part is going well, but we have a long way to go to stop the excitement and anticipation that builds up prior to leaving the house. That is our fault and we now have to break the habits we have to help the dogs.

Catch up - the beginning

Forgive me, today will be a flurry of posts so I can get you up to where we are today.

Until we got Meg 4 years ago I had never had a dog as a household pet. I was brought up around dogs, indeed my first dog memory is of a German Shepherd that my dad had for his business. She was a guard dog and took her job very seriously but I remember her with fond affection as a companion during school holidays when I used to roam around Denshaw and Delph.

My father and his wife, Chris, have always had a house full of dogs. Chris is a dog trainer and watching her behave around dogs was wonderful. I paid some attention to how Chris behaved around her own dogs and those of others, but as I was not a dog owner myself it was more paying attention out of respect and interest in Chris than necessity. I hope that makes sense!

Before we got Meg Dean and I looked at our life and the kind of dog we wanted in regards to its breed attributes. We wanted something small but hardy for our visits to the Lake District in all weathers and seasons, and decided on a terrier type dog. I researched all terriers and their traits including their 'bad' points. We looked at our local rescue centre and visited several looking for a suitable terrier. We found Meg. Meg was a sad case with a sad history but the day she came home with us was her new beginning. Meg took to her 'training' very well and within 2 months we had a happy and well adjusted dog.

12 months later we decided Meg should have a companion. Our neighbour had rescued a bitch from a local rescue centre who 5 weeks later produced a litter of Parsons Terrier pups. We choose Colin. I will not be discussing Colin at this point. Sadly Colin died last Boxing Day aged 2 years and my wounds are still very raw.

Meg pinned for Colin and we missed having 2 dogs so we found Ghyll. Ghyll was a tiny bundle of spoiled fluff having come from a household with 3 girls who picked him up and mollycoddled him constantly. Ghyll however adjusted very, very quickly to our household and his role/position within it.

Life was good, the pace was slow and calm. I still do not know what possessed me to look at other dogs in July. I missed Colin and his energy and in all honesty I think I was looking for his replacement, another dog to fill my days with mental and physical stimulation. As much as I adore Meg and Ghyll they are plodders and I missed the uplifting energy I shared with Colin. As soon as I saw Jack I called out to Dean, this was the dog. He had bright eyes, he was alert and he really needed a new home.

We learned however upon collecting him that he was not 3 months old, indeed he was 7/8 months old. BUT we had made a commitment to Jack. The drive home was a nightmare. Jack's cage was so small he could not lie down in it, I should have taken one of our crates but when the owner said she had one I thought it would have been suitable. Jack howled and barked all the way home, and I did not blame him one little bit.

The introduction to Meg and Ghyll was the stuff nightmares are made of. As we later learned Jack had never been socialised with other dogs, walked on a lead, given boundaries or even a hint at how he was expected to behave around others. Ghyll however took this whirling dervish of a dog in his stride and within 15 minutes had Jack bounding around, tail wagging. I allowed the dogs to behave like dogs. I did not interfere with Meg and Ghyll as they were the ones to show Jack how to be a dog. Jack ran round the garden in circles all day and by 7 o'clock I was exhausted just by watching him. I was sat in the middle of the garden waiting for Jack to approach me. I did not force his attention I let him come to me when he himself became curious as to what this silly woman was doing. I did not pet him nor talk to him indeed I did not even look at him, I just watched the overall situation.

So we now have the household standing at 3 dogs, 1 exhausted wife, 1 bewildered son and 1 husband who came home once all this energy had been dissipated.

Regrets? Yes some, not in the dogs but in the people that were involved. I regret believing that this '3' month old pup needed rehoming due to an asthmatic child. I regret believing that everyone who has a dog cares for its physical and mental well being. Would I do it the same again? No. The next time I will ensure that Dean is with me when we collect a dog. Dean has it in him to have said 'thanks, but no thanks' to a sad, unhappy dog with a heart and soul so big you can see it in his eyes. Not because he is hard hearted, but because he is realistic, practical and aware of our limitations.

But we have made our bed and we shall lie in it. Our blog is going to be how we now make that bed comfortable.

Introductions all round

Introducing Meg

Meg is a wire haired fox terrier. She is approx 5 years old now - we are unsure of her actual age as Meg was rescued from Appledown Kennels.

Meg is quiet and aloof, a little timid in some situations and a firebrand in others. For the vast majority of the time Meg is very well behaved. This photograph shows Meg in her full winter coat

Introducing Ghyll

Ghyll is a standard Yorkshire Terrier cross Jack Russell. Ghyll is now 14 months old.

Ghyll is a peacemaker but no push over, mischievious and very cheeky. For the most part Ghyll behaves as a typical young male dog - but can be possessive, stubborn and pushy at times.

Introducing Jack

Jack is a Border Terrier cross Parsons Russell Terrier. Jack is now 12 months old.

Jack is a handful to say the least. Affectionate, clever (as we have now discovered) and filled with limitless energy. For the most part Jack is hard work! We 'rescued' Jack 4 months ago from a family that had had him since he was a young pup. He had no training whatsoever, no structure and no boundaries.

I have started this blog as we have had to hold our hands up and say 'we need help', and thankfully we are getting that help from Theo, The Dog Lady.

I will use this blog to keep myself focused on what our family has to do to bring structure, boundaries, peace and harmony to our household. It will also no doubt amuse some, frustrate some and bore the pants of others!

I hope to get lots of input and feedback from readers - some I may digest and learn from, others I may totally ignore. I do not believe a dog should be shouted at, hit or bullied into behaving as we see fit. If you are of this ilk then please don't bother reading.

As Theo has so wisely put it 'this is not about control over your dog, rather than teaching your dog self control'

The past 3 days have been interesting and I shall update my 'diary' with our antics later.