Archive | March, 2013

Irish Wolfhound

31 Mar


irish 2



This dog truly is the giant of the dog world, being one of the tallest breeds, even reaching the size of a small pony. The reach 28-35 inches in height and weigh 40-69kg (90-150 pounds). When standing on its hind legs. this is a dog that can be taller than a man, reaching up to 7 feet tall! This dog has a long head with a long and pointed muzzle. When the dog is relaxed, it holds its ears back against the head, and you will see them partway pricked when it is excited. They have a long tail which hangs down and is slightly curved. They have a shaggy, wiry coat that is rough to the tough. It is longer over the eyes and under the jaw. The colours include grey, brindle, red, black, pure white or fawn. Although the most commonly seen is grey.


irish descr        irish



Health problems:

Prone to cardiomyopathy, bone cancer, bloat, PRA, Von Willebrands, and hip dysplasia.



This is a very old breed of dog, even appearing in Roman records. The dog was used in wars, for guarding and also for hunting with their name coming from their use of hunting wolves. This is a dog that was highly treasured with battles being fought over them and often being given as royal presents. When the boar and wolf became extinct in Ireland, the Irish Wolfhound declined, but the breed was restored using the introduction of great dane and deerhound blood. The breed was recognized by the american kennle clb in 1897 shortly after the Irish Wolfhound Club was founded. In 1935 they were recognized as a sporting breed by the kennel  club.



Although you might feel intimidated by their size, these tend to be very gentle, good natured and patient animals. They are very intelligent and always eager to please their humans. They respond very well to firm, but gentle leadership and like all dogs they need consistency when it comes to following rules and boundires. They tend to get on well with children and can generally get on with anybody they meet. As a giant breed, they are often very clumsy and also take about two years before they are fully grown. This also means that they take longer to mature regarding their mind (they stay young for a long time). Whilst it is still young, walks must be kept short so to allow its developing legs to stay strong without putting too much pressure on it. It is important that they are trained to heel before they get too large.

irish child         irish-wolfhound-0001



Despite its scruffy appearance, this dog does need regular and thorough grooming with a bursh and groom. The coat should be plucked once or twice a year to remove excess dead hair.


Living conditions:

Although it is relatively inactive indoors, this dog is not suited for apartment life and does best with a large yard. As a giant breed, it needs some space. This also might mean that you need to invest in a larger car in order to take it for trips out or to visit the vet. Although large in size, they would be unhappy living in a kennel as they love to be a part of the family. These dogs need lots of space to run, but in reality do not need any more exercise than smaller breeds. As always they need a minimum of a one walk a day in order to fulfill their instincts to walk. Make sure they they are made to heel as not only do they need to see you as their leader but they are also easily big enough to pull you over.


Life expectancy:

6-8 years





Bernese Mountain Dog

30 Mar






The Bernese Mountain dog is a pretty large, dog weighing in at between 36 and 50 kg (80-110 pounds) and reaching 23-28 inches in height with males being slightly larger. Although they are strong and sturdy in build, they are also agile. They have a broad head with a strong and straight muzzle, the teeth meeting in a scissor bite. They have triangular ears which are medium in size and set high on the head. Their tail is long and bushy, carried low. They have a fairly long coat which is thick and slightly wavy or straight and is weather resistant. The dog is tricoloured and has symmetrical markings of black, white and rust. The dog will have a white blaze on the chest and also on the head, toes and top of the tail. The rust colour is seen on the cheeks, over each eye, on each side of the chest, on all four legs and underneath the tail.




Health problems:

This is another breed that generally do not have too many health issues to contend with. However they are prone to bloat and so feeding needs to be careful managed so that it is suitable i.e more small meals rather than large meals.  They are also prone to some cancers, problems with their eyelids and hip and elbow dysplasia. This is another breed that will gain wait easily and so feeding and exercise must be appropriate.



This breed originated in the Swiss mountains. They are working dogs often used at pulling carts to market and also used to drive cattle and to watch over the farm. The numbers decreased in the 19th century as other working breeds were being introduced to Switzerland.


bern cart



Due to their long, thick coat, weekly brushing is needed and is particularly important when they are shedding.  The breed is a seasonal, heavy shedder. Baths are only required when necessary.



These dogs make great companions and members of the family as they get on great with children. They also tend to get on well with other pets and also often are friendly with strangers.  With any dog it is important to socialize well. These dogs are very intelligent and easy to train and although they are very confident, they are not often overly dominant.  As will all breeds of dog it is important for an owner of a Bernese mountain dog to show strong leadership. If you are calm and assertive, setting out clear rules and boundaries for your dog to follow, a Bernese mountain dog owner should encounter very few problems.


bernese child


Living conditions:

These large, active dogs are not generally recommended for life as an apartment dog. They are relatively active indoors but would be happiest with a large, fenced in yard to play in. It is important that they get regular exercise which may even include being trained to pull a cart or wagon for periods of time. A long daily walk is a must in order to fulfill both their exercise needs and their instincts to walk. Due to their thick coats they can be sensitive to heat and tend to do best in colder temperatures.


bern cold


Life expectancy:

6-8 years


We haven’t heard much from Solomon the Shih Tzu lately, this is what he’s been up to

29 Mar

All grown up…

28 Mar

In just four days time, on the 1st of April, Maya will be one year old!

I have had her for ten months now, and really can’t believe how fast time has flown by. Today i booked her in to get spayed which will be on the 4th April (nice birthday present for her, huh?). Anyway, it got me to thinking, my baby girl is all grown up.


She has gone from this squishy, chubby little bundle of cuddles, weighing in at just around 5kg. A little brown blob with big sad eyes that used to follow me around everywhere, always demanding cuddles. A little ball of destruction that peed from excitement every where she went and even had an accidental poo on mum’s bed. She would and still will do anything i asked providing she gets some sort of treat. She was a fast learner.

To this….


A beautiful, happy girl full of life and energy. A dog that has learnt to follow my lead and can “sit”, “lay down”, “go up”, “spin”, “Roll over”, “wait”, “leave it”, “heel”, “bow” and “army crawl”. A retriever that does not and will not retrieve. She is my running partner. My comforter. A smiley, “chatty” dog that will happily spend time alone but will also let you know when she wants attention by hopping up onto the sofa and sitting on your chest for a cuddle. A dog that will eat just about anything that is within reach, but also know’s when it is time for her tea and will let you know by barking at you, pawing at you and then standing by the door. But also a dog that shows patience and waits to be invited outside, and waits for permission to eat her food. She is a dog that wants to be friends with everybody and wont take no for an answer.

But most of all….

She’s my Maya and i love her, for loving me.


The Best Part A…

28 Mar

The Best Part About Owning A Dog…

… is the way he will come over to see me,
for no reason, just to let me know I’m
important to him
… is the way he is always ready to lick the
jelly off my nose…
… is the way he looks into my eyes and finds
contentment in simply being near me
… is the way he will run all over the yard,
fetch a soggy tennis ball and bring it back
to me as if to say “look mom, it’s all have,
but it’s yours
… is the way he wakes me up in the morning by pushing
his cold wet nose in my ear and snuffing loudly
… is the way he shreds toilet paper all over the house,
because it’s fun even though he knows he shouldn’t
… is the way he’s sure he can catch the ducks in the
lake today…
… is the way he comes over to me when he is sad
… is the way he wedges himself near me when I am sad and
push all others away, to console me with his love
… is the way he pounces on crickets in the backyard
… is the way he looks perplexed when they escape
… is the way he is terrified of the evil pink hula hoop
… is the way he doesn’t mind how much of that horrid
perfume I’m wearing just because it was a gift from
my relative who’s visiting
… is the way he doesn’t care about bad hair day or
overdue bills
… is the way he loves you, even when you are impatient
with him and have no time this morning for a game
of tug-a-war
… is the way his coat feels like liquid silk under
my fingers
… is the way he finds wisdom beyond words


“My sunshine do…

28 Mar

“My sunshine doesn’t come from the skies,
It comes from the love in my dog’s eyes”

The Silver Fox Domestication Experiment

27 Mar

I have talked before about the origin of the domestic dog and how they resulted from the process of domestication of wolves. What i haven’t mentioned before is the silver fox domestication experiment, which really helped us to understand the whole process.


What we already knew:

Different species of domesticated animals do seem to share some common traits, changes in:

  • body size
  • fur colouration
  • timing of the reproductive cycle
  • type of hair i.e. wavy, curly, straight, fine, thick, coarse
  • ear shape
  • tail shape
  • behaviour

Darwin even recognized that drooping ears is something that never occurs in the wild, only in domesticated animals (with the exception of elephants).





Why the silver fox experiment:

Russian scientist Belyaev and other Soviet-era biolgists looked closely at the domestic dog. Whilst they knew that they were descended from wolves, they could not understand exactly what mechanism had occurred in order to result in such differences between the wolf and the domestic dog.


The hypothesis:

Belyaev came up with the hypothesis that the the anatomical and physiological changes seen in animals that are domesticated could have been the result of the selection on the basis of behavioural traits. He believed that tameness was the critical factor (how likely an animal was to interact with humans).


The study:

Belyaev and his colleagues took wild solver foxes and then bred them, with a strong selection criteria for inherent tameness. They selected for tameness and against aggression with the theory that this would result in hormonal and neurological changes which would then affect the physiology and anatomy of the animals.

Starting at one month of age, and continuing every month throughout infancy, the foxes were tested for their reactions to an experimenter. The experimenter would attempt to pet and handle the fox while offering it food. In addition, the experimenters noted whether the foxes preferred to hang out with other foxes, or with humans.

Then, upon reaching sexual maturity (seven to eight months), they had their final test and assigned an overall tameness score. They rated each fox’s tendency to approach an experimenter standing at the front of its home pen, as well as each fox’s tendency to bite the experimenters when they tried to touch it. Only those foxes that were least fearful and least aggressive were chosen for breeding. In each successive generation, less than 20 percent of individuals were allowed to breed.


The result:

The domesticated foxed were bred on the basis of single selection criteria, displayed behavioral, physiological, and anatomical characteristics that were not found in the wild population, or were found in wild foxes but with much lower frequency.

Belyaev then began breeding a line of foxes with the opposite behavioral traits, to be fearful and aggressive, using a similar method. To ensure that tameness resulted from genetic selection and not simply from experience with humans, the foxes were not trained and were only allowed short “time dosage” contact with their caretakers and experimenters.

The changes seen in the domestic foxes were much like those seen in the domestic dog compared to their ancestors, the wolf. The foxes that had been domesticated were eager to interact with humans, going as far as whimpering to attract attention, sniffing and licking their human caretakers. It was noted that they would even wag their tails when they were excited.  Their fear response was reduced and they became more willing to experience new things such as people, objects and surroundings. Their physical appearance also changed, much like the domestic dog, the foxes developed floppy ears, with tails that were short or curly. They also had changed to the colour of their fur, the shape of their skull, jaws and teeth. Like dogs, their reproductive cycles also changed.


fox proj











Further reading: